EU was looking into airline safety regulations prior to Germanwings crash in the French Alps

BRUSSELS – European Union authorities were looking into German airline safety procedures on “a number of issues” well ahead of the March 24 Germanwings crash after a standard inspection by its aviation safety agency questioned some procedures, an official told The Associated Press Wednesday.

The EU Commission official, who asked not be named because of the sensitivity of the situation, said the issues included health checks of pilots but could not elaborate.

The official said that already in November EU authorities “had asked for clarification to make sure all airlines actively observe rules.”

Germanwings co-pilot Andreas Lubitz had suffered from depression before he locked his captain out of the cockpit and deliberately flew the Airbus A320 into a French mountainside during the flight from Barcelona to Duesseldorf. All 150 people on board were killed.

The EU official said the remarks arose from a standard inspection that its European Aviation Safety Agency makes of procedures in all member states and said it was now assessing German suggestions to remedy the situation.

The crash however had complicated the situation on how to deal with the issue. If no satisfactory action is taken, the EU could consider taking legal action against the member nation, but it was too early to do so now, the official said.

Lufthansa indicated Monday that it was under no obligation to report to Germany’s national aviation authority the fact that Lubitz had suffered from depression before qualifying as a pilot several years ago.

Investigators believe that Lubitz, 27, informed its flight school when he returned from a several-month break in pilot training in 2009 that he had experienced an episode of “severe depression.” Lufthansa has said he subsequently passed all medical tests.

The EU has detailed air safety regulations, which included rules on a pilot’s mental health, that member states need to take into account. EASA regularly tests whether the 28 EU nations adhere to those standards. “This is a normal and regular occurrence,” said the official.