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German regulators had no knowledge of co-pilot's depression

The Federal Aviation Office has said Lufthansa did not share information about Andreas Lubitz's health issues before the regulators issued him a pilot's license. The airline CEO had called him "100 percent" safe to fly.

Germany's national aviation regulator said Sunday it was unaware that Germanwings co-pilot Andreas Lubitz had struggled with severe depression before the disaster in the French Alps.

A spokesman for the Federal Aviation Office (LBA) told the AFP news agency that parent company Lufthansa had provided "no information about the medical background" of the 27-year-old Lubitz, who prosecutors say deliberately crashed the aircraft last month.

The LBA, which issues pilot licenses, said Lufthansa physicians did not tell authorities about Lubitz's "earlier phase of serious depression." The regulator first learned of the co-pilot's mental health problems when it gained access to his file at Lufthansa's medical center two days after the March 25 crash.

The LBA spokeswoman was confirming a report in Germany's Welt am Sonntag newspaper. The report indicated that Lubitz had been examined six times since returning to his training in 2009 and a several month absence, but after a psychological test was ordered that year, no further mental health evaluations were carried out.

Lufthansa declined to comment on the report, saying the ongoing investigation prevented it from doing so.

Lufthansa backtracks

The company's chief, Carsten Spohr, had said that the airline was unaware of any health problems that could have compromised Lubitz's performance, calling him "100 percent airworthy," before admitting a week later that the co-pilot, after returning to flying school from his medical absence in 2009, had told his superiors about his suicidal episode.

The LBA acknowledged on Sunday that the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) had taken issue with some of the country's safety rules, including a lack of staff, but did not provide details about its procedures. However, an EU commission spokesman said on Saturday that such complaints were a "regular occurrence" as "part of a continuous system of oversight."

While German aviation rules came under deepening scrutiny, French authorities concluded the search for human remains at the crash site in the Alps. They said the identification of the 150 victims will continue via DNA analysis, and the search will now focus on recovering their belongings.

The removal of the larger pieces of wreckage will commence this coming week, according to local media.

es/rc (AFP, dpa)

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