Captain Patrick Sondheimer, The Germanwings Hero
On 24th March 2015, Germanwings international passenger Flight 9525 crashed in the French Alps and killed 144 passengers and six crew members. Ever since, the whole world has been talking about Andreas Lubitz.
Journalists of all kinds have offered their thoughts with varying degrees of objectivity and accuracy about what caused the crash. There is a fair amount of evidence pointing to mental instability on the part of the co-pilot Lubitz, who was in control of the plane when it went down.
While it is important, in developing preventative measures, to investigate the circumstances leading up to this kind of tragedy, coverage that is so exclusively miserable does little to fix things. The focus on Lubitz’s depression only serves to direct fear and suspicion towards other people suffering from it. The pervasive negativity is upsetting and scare-mongering, more than productive or informative.
It spread a fear that the people we depend upon in our day to day lives, the people we pay for a service, don’t always have our best interests at heart. It reinforces the fallibility of mankind and pushes our flaws to the surfaces.
The vast majority of the media barely took a moment to mention Captain Patrick Sondheimer, who fought up until the last second to try to save the lives of everyone on board, who reflected the qualities you want to find in someone you are supposed to trust.
The cockpit voice recorder was damaged in the crash, but was survived well enough that specialists were able to extract a voice recording of the entire flight.
Throughout the flight, Lubitz repeatedly advises Sondheimer to leave the cockpit for a while. Finally, shortly before 10.30am, Sondheimer gets up to go to the bathroom.
He returns moments later, as the plane begins to sink, to find the door to the cockpit locked and the key code panel disabled from within.
For the rest of the tape, the sounds of Captain Sondheimer screaming and yelling at Lubitz to open the door, the sounds of him kicking and beating at the door over the noise of the alarms, can all be consistently heard.
He spent the last moments of his life pounding the door on the off chance he might be able to break through and rescue the flight. To the end, he knew his duty as a pilot was to get his passengers safely to their destination no matter what. As his plane descended, he remained true to the people who depended on him and he struggled against the odds to find a way to help others.
He may not have been successful, but that doesn’t make him any less deserving of respect and admiration. He did everything in his power to reverse the actions of the co-pilot, to save the lives of 144 innocent civilians including 16 school children, and it is unfair that his efforts go so widely unshared.
If there is anyone we should remember about this tragedy, it is Patrick Sondheimer, the captain who died a hero.
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