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Embry-Riddle professor talks of pilot training, reconstructing airplane accidents

Professor discusses Germanwings crash

Local 6 News at 5:00p
Local 6 News at 5:00p

Prosecutors now say a co-pilot intentionally brought down the Germanwings jet that ultimately crashed into the Swiss Alps as the pilot tried to break the door down to get back into the cockpit. 

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All 150 people were killed and there was nothing left of the jet but small pieces of debris. Investigators are now left to figure out exactly what went wrong. 

"I can tell you, the NTSB has people that will do voice analysis to tell whether or not you're stressed, they have people that put together, reconstruct the cockpit and the pieces to see were there any failures, any failures in the electronics, the avionics, were there any failures on the aircraft at all? We don't know right now," said Scott Shappell, the current chair and professor of Human Factors at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University.

Shappell has been on all sides of aviation as a Navy pilot, an accident investigator and he also has experience working for the FAA. Shappell says pilots go through an extreme vetting process.

"You're always being evaluated on your mental stability as well as a myriad of other things. Plus in the U.S., in commercial aviation, you have an annual flight physical," said Shappell.

A big part of pilot training, Shappell says, is learning to compartmentalize.

"You're taught very early, when you're in the cockpit, that all you do is focus on flying. So very rarely do we see depression and things like that permeate in the cockpit," Shappell said.

He says there's several factors yet to be looked into regarding the Germanwings plane crash. In his opinion, Shappell says, the conclusion that it was done deliberately, is premature.

"Until we get all of the facts and they're laid out in front of us, and we can look at all the options, if I'm the public, I'm going to try and ignore this," said Shappell.