Outside the Bubble 4/2/15

European Plane Crash Triggers New Pilot Safety Protocols

While information continues to emerge about the physical and mental state of Germanwings Flight 9525 pilot Andreas Lubitz, the man German prosecutors hold responsible for the flight that crashed in the French Alps on Mar. 24 and killed all 150 people aboard the plane, several corporations have already begun changing their safety protocols to require that two individuals remain in the cockpit for the entirety of flights. Although U.S. aviation regulations mandate that two people occupy the cockpit at all times, other national aviation or major corporate safety regulations have not. Now, individual airline carriers based around the world and at least one nation have confirmed plans to enforce a two-person cockpit protocol.

The rush to announce such mandates—with more than half a dozen companies confirming such regulations within two days of the crash of Flight 9525—came upon the announcement by French authorities that they believe co-pilot Lubitz was alone in the cockpit at the time of the crash. According to the Washington Post, the French authorities state that the cockpit voice recording collected from the flight captures Lubitz’s breathing within the cockpit as his co-pilot Patrick Sonderheimer banged on the locked door moments before the flight hit the mountainside. (“Germanwings crash sparks rush to embrace U.S. 2 pilots in cockpit rule,” 03.26.15) Authorities currently believe that the crash was the result of a suicide attempt by Lubitz and not any form of mechanical failure or unintentional pilot error. (Al Jazeera, “Australia unveils cockpit rules after Germanwings crash,” 03.30.15)

Carriers from the United Kingdom, Germany, Norway, Australia and Canada have confirmed that they will have altered safety protocols, which were similarly permissive of only one person remaining in the cockpit; the current list includes EasyJet, Virgin, Air Berlin, Air Transit, Monarch Airlines, Air Canada, Norwegian Air Shuttle, Thomas Cook and Lufthansa, the parent company of Germanwings. These companies told the media that the new policy would be effective almost immediately, typically within two days of its official announcement. Currently, the UK’s Civil Aviation Authority is also asking all other carriers to review their cockpit safety protocols. (The Guardian, “Germanwings crash prompts airlines to introduce cockpit ‘rule of two,’” 03.26.15)

Some claim that this merely inspired swifter action on the issue, attempting to separate the policy from the events of Flight 9525. According to Norwegian’s flight operations director Thomas Hesthammer, “We have been discussing this for a long time but this development has accelerated things. When one person leaves the cockpit, two people will now have to be there.” (The Guardian)

In addition to individual airlines announcing such plans, Australia has announced it will immediately require airlines to change security protocols to include a two-person cockpit regulation. (Al Jazeera) Deputy Prime Minister Warren Truss told reporters less than one week after the crash that commercial flights with more than 50 passengers or more than one flight attendant will be subject to the regulation. (Al Jazeera)

As per the US Federal Aviation Authority regulations, US airlines have been required two members of the airline staff to remain in the cockpit throughout the flight for several years. According to the policy, if one or both pilots exit the cockpit during the flight, qualified members of the crew, such as relief pilots serving as part of the crew or flight attendants, are required to enter the flight deck, lock the door and remain there until the pilot returns. (The Guardian)


Indiana Law Religious Freedom Draws Ire of LGBTQ Activists and Lawmakers

On Mar. 26, Indiana governor Mike Pence signed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), an act that has sparked serious criticisms from activists, celebrities, and international corporations, into law. While supporters of the legislation argue that this ensures individuals’ First Amendment rights and marks merely the extension of a bipartisan law passed by the federal government in 1993, opponents argue that it will allow for discrimination particularly based on sexual orientation. This law makes Indiana one of 20 states with similar laws related to religious freedoms.

According to the law, itself individuals and businesses—both identified as persons—providing a for-profit service are given a legal defense to deny services in instances they feel would unduly burden them on the basis of religious conviction. It reads, “A person whose exercise of religion has been substantially burdened, or is likely to be substantially burdened, by a violation of this chapter may assert the violation or impending violation as a claim or defense in a judicial or administrative proceeding.” (The Washington Post, “Religious liberty or discrimination? Read the text of Indiana’s religious freedom law,” 03.31.15)

In passing this law, Indiana joins a group of 19 states that have such regulations and fall into line with a decades-old federal regulation. In 1993, Congress passed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act with bipartisan support. Supporters of the legislation also allege that in 1998, as a state senator in Illinois, President Obama supported a version of this law. (The Wall Street Journal, “Ensuring Religious Freedom in Indiana,” 03.31.15)

As LGBTQ people are not federally protected from discrimination, opponents of the law believe that this law will allow for discrimination against LGBTQ individuals. They argue that the law will allow individuals to be denied services or rights based upon their sexuality or gender-identity. (Huffington Post, “What You Need to Know About Indiana’s RFRA,” 03.30.15)

Organizations have also voiced their concerns about the law’s implications, although they plan to continue to maintain ties with the state. NASCAR issued a statement that reads, “NASCAR is disappointed by the recent legislation passed in Indiana. We will not embrace nor participate in exclusion or intolerance.” (HotAir, “We are ‘disappointed’ in Indiana for passing RFRA, says…NASCAR,” 03.31.15) The president of the NCAA, which is based in Indianapolis, wrote, “We are especially concerned about how this legislation could affect our student-athletes and employees.” (The New York Times, “Indiana Law Denounced as Invitation to Discriminate Against Gays,” 03.27.15)

Others felt that the new law stood in such opposition to its business methods and ethics that they would withdraw bases of operation or events from the state. Connecticut Governor Dan Malloy announced on Mar. 30 that he had halted all state-funded travel to Indiana using an executive order, citing the law as the cause of his action. In days prior, San Francisco and Seattle mayors placed a similar ban on travel to Indiana from their cities. (GLAAD, “Ashton Kutcher, Miley Cyrus, Ellen DeGeneres and more celebs speak out against Indiana’s anti-LGBT law,” 03.30.15)

Celebrities such as Nick Offerman, Molly George Takei and Susan Sarandon have also advocated for a boycott of Indiana, each pledging to refuse to attend events located there as long as the law is in place. Such pledges added to the countless others across the country, such as “#BoycottIndiana.” (GLAAD)

Amidst criticism, supporters of the law have argued that Indiana’s new law does not promote discrimination, but rather allows for greater freedom. In an opinions piece published in The Wall Street Journal, Pence explained that he would not support discriminatory legislation. He wrote, “I abhor discrimination…As governor of Indiana, if I were presented with a bill that legalized discrimination against any person or group, I would veto it. Indiana’s new law contains no reference to sexual orientation.” (The Wall Street Journal)

He went on to say, “Some express concern that Indiana’s RFRA law would lead to discrimination, but RFRA only provides a mechanism to address claims, not a license for private parties to deny services.”(The Wall Street Journal)

Other activist organizations have also supported the law, claiming it stands as a method of protecting religious freedoms. President of Indiana Right to Life Mike Fichter wrote to LifeNews, “Pro-life Hoosiers deserve the same protections against overbearing state and local laws as do their counterparts in the majority of the states. This is why Indiana Right to Life proudly supports RFRA and is thankful for Governor Mike Pence and the Indiana legislature for enacting this new protection of our religious freedom.” (LifeNews, “Why Pro-Life People Should Support Indiana’s New Religious Freedom Restoration Act,” 03.30.15)

In light of the criticism the law has faced, and despite claims like those made by Smith and Fichter, Hoosier lawmakers have asserted that they intend to clarify their language to prevent the law’s use for discriminatory purposes. Although he believes the confusion started due to the misleading of Americans, Pence admitted that misinformation has necessitated legislative clarification. (10 News, “Where are the supporters of RFRA? Silent out of fear of ‘bullying,’ law’s architect says,” 03.30.15) Thus far, Indiana legislators have yet to announce a timeline as to when such clarifications would be made. Those doubting the veracity of claims that this bill will not be used to discriminate have advocated for the inclusion of LGBTQ people within Indiana’s established state-wide non-discrimination regulations. (Huffington Post)


– Bethan Johnson, Contributing Editor

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