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How far can we ensure aviation safety ? The Germanwings crash of last March has highlighted a weakness in French air traffic control: it took over two minutes for them to realize what was happening to the ‘plane. For their part, the German air traffic control organisation considers that they would have responded more quickly, thanks to their new radar system : the PSS.

Axel Raab, Communication Director - German air traffic control organisation (DFS): « If the French controllers had had the PSS system, they would have received a warning and seen that the ‘plane was about to crash. »

How does the system work ? When an aircraft is in German airspace, its exact location is transmitted to air traffic controllers, which is nothing exceptional, but where the Germans are ahead, is when a pilot selects a different altitude from that which was intended, an alarm immediately appears on the air traffic controllers’ screens.

For Germanwings, Andreas Lubitz’s ‘‘practising’’ gestures during the out-bound flight between Düsseldorf and Barcelona would have been identified. The German co-pilot entered a descent instruction to the A320 twice, before changing his mind.

Axel Raab, Communication Director - German air traffic control organisation (DFS): « The contollers would have talked to the pilot and told him that he had not entered the correct altitude. If the pilot had denied it, then they would have certainly thought that it was a technical error, because at that time they never imagined what he had in mind. »

The PSS is slowly being used more, but widespread use of the system will not happen overnight. In Europe, although Switzerland is already equipped with the system, France may follow suit in 2016.

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