Transportation chief confident in US pilot screening

Transportation chief confident in US pilot screening
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Transportation Secretary Anthony FoxxAnthony Renard FoxxBig Dem names show little interest in Senate Lyft sues New York over new driver minimum pay law Lyft confidentially files for IPO MORE said Thursday he is confident in U.S. pilot screening as questions mount about the background of a Germanwings pilot who intentionally crashed a flight in the French Alps last week. 

"I can say with confidence that I think the U.S. sets the gold standard for aviation safety in the world," Foxx said in a briefing with reporters at the Transportation Department's headquarters in Washington. 

"Part of the reason for that is when incidents like the Germanwings crash occur, we look at those incidents and we say, 'Okay, could that have happened here?' " he continued. "If the answer is even remotely yes, then we start to think about, 'Well what kinds of protections do we not have that maybe we should have?' "  

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Officials in France have said Germanwings co-pilot Andreas Lubitz battled depression in the years before he purposely crashed the jet into a mountain. 

Germanwings's parent company, Lufthansa, has come under fire for reportedly ignoring an email from Lubitz when he was in flight school in which he admitted to battling depression. 

French authorities have accused the 27-year-old of locking the captain of Germanwings Flight 9525 out of the cockpit and intentionally crashing the plane, killing everyone on board.

The flight from Barcelona, Spain, to Dusseldorf, Germany, was carrying 150 people — 144 passengers and six crew members — when it crashed into the mountain at a high speed.

Initial reports indicated Lubitz destroyed a doctor's note excusing him from work on the day of the crash before he entered the cockpit for the fatal flight.

Foxx said the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is reviewing its procedures to make sure a similar accident does not happen in the U.S. 

"We're having those conversations now at the FAA," he said. "Nothing to read out yet about those conversations, but we're trying to dig in and figure out the answers."  

FAA records show Lubitz was certified as a pilot by U.S. officials. The FAA certification lists Lubitz as a “private pilot (foreign based),” who was allowed to fly single-engine planes and gliders in the U.S.

FAA officials have said the certification was granted solely based on Lubitz's German pilot license, which is a customary procedure for foreign pilots. 

U.S. airline industry officials have said an accident like the Germanwings crash is unlikely to happen on a domestic jetliner because U.S. regulations require two people to be in airplane cockpits at all times.