EU Had ‘Issues’ With German Aviation Body Before Recent Crash

The European Union aviation regulator said a regular review of national air-safety enforcement that took place before the Germanwings incident uncovered “issues” in Germany.

“Germany’s replies are currently being assessed,” European commission spokesman Christian Wigand said by phone. “All EU member states have findings and this is a normal and regular occurrence. It is part of a continuous system of oversight: findings are followed by corrective action, similar to an audit process.”

EU audits found Luftfahrtbundesamt, Germany’s air-safety regulator, had staff shortages that could undermine its ability to run checks of carriers and crew, including medical checks, the Wall Street Journal reported, citing two people familiar with the issue. The authority last November formally told Luftfahrtbundesamt to remedy the situation, the paper said.

The European Commission declined to comment on personnel shortages affecting medical checks being carried out correctly by the German regulator.

The investigation of the Germanwings crash that killed 150 people on March 24 has centered largely on the co-pilot Andreas Lubitz’s mental state. Information gathered after the crash shows that the 27-year-old suffered from a psychosomatic condition and was being treated by neurologists and psychiatrists, according to a person familiar with the investigation. In 2009 he told the flight training school operated by Deutsche Lufthansa AG, the owner of Germanwings, that he had had an episode of severe depression.

Germany’s transport ministry confirmed the European Aviation Safety Agency had some complaints during a regular check on whether national aviation procedures were consistent with EU regulation, a spokesman said. German authorities have responded to the concerns, which have no connection with the Germanwings incident, he said.

Audits of Germany’s Luftfahrtbundesamt by the European aviation agency occur several times a year, the regulator’s spokeswoman Cornelia Cramer said in an e-mailed statement. The authority has responded to concerns raised by its European counterparty, she said.