Thursday, March 26, 2015

The Copycat Effect and Aircraft Suicides


Should we be on the lookout for aircraft-related copycat suicides in the wake of the news regarding the cause of Flight 9525's demise?


Behind Andreas Lubitz is the Golden Gate Bridge, known in suicidology for its power of attraction for suicide victims. (For more, see The Copycat Effect, Chapter 16: The Magnetism of Milieu and Moment.)
Andreas Lubitz, the copilot of Flight 9545, appears to have brought down the Germanwings Airbus A320 Flight 9525 on March 24, 2015. 

A short history of modern suicide-related aircraft disasters, in general, do not list the single craft crashes that occur in the wake of the larger aircraft wrecks.

September 26, 1976 – 12 fatalities
A Russian pilot stole an Antonov 2 airplane directed his aircraft into the block of flats in Novosibirsk where his divorced wife lived. (ASN Accident Description)

August 22, 1979 – 4 fatalities
A 23 year old male mechanic who had just been fired entered a hangar at Bogotá Airport, Colombia and stole a military HS-748 transport plane. He took off and crashed the plane in a residential area. (ASN Accident Description)

February 9, 1982 - 24 fatalities
Japan Airlines Flight 350 was a McDonnell Douglas DC-8-61 on a domestic scheduled passenger flight from Fukuoka, Japan, to Tokyo. The airplane crashed 9 February 1982 on approach to Haneda Airport in Tokyo Bay. Flight 350 was Japan Airlines' first crash of the 1980s. The crew consisted of 35-year-old Captain Seiji Katagiri (片桐 清二 Katagiri Seiji), 33-year-old First Officer Yoshifumi Ishikawa, and 48-year-old flight engineer Yoshimi Ozaki. The cause of the crash was traced to Katagiri's deliberate engaging of the number 2 and 3 engines' thrust-reversers in flight. The first officer and flight engineer worked to restrain him and regain control. Despite their best efforts, the DC-8's descent could not be completely checked, and it touched down in shallow water 300 meters (980 ft) short of the runway. Among the 166 passengers and eight crew, 24 died. (Source.)

December 7, 1987 - 43
Pacific Southwest Airlines flight 1771 was a commercial flight that crashed near Cayucos, California, United States, on December 7, 1987, as a result of a murder–suicide by one of the passengers. All 43 people on board the aircraft died, five of whom were shot to death before the plane crashed. The man who caused the crash, David Burke, was a disgruntled former employee of USAir, the parent company of PSA. The crash killed three managers and the president of Chevron USA, James R. Sylla, along with three officials of Pacific Bell, which prompted many large corporations to create or revise policies that would forbid group travel by executives on the same flight. (Source.)

July 13, 1994 – 1 fatality
A Russian Air Force engineer stole the aircraft at the Kubinka AFB to die by suicide. The aircraft crashed when there was no more fuel left. (ASN Accident Description)

August 21, 1994 – 44 fatalities
A Royal Air Maroc ATR-42 airplane crashed in the Atlas Mountains shortly after takeoff from Agadir, Morocco. The accident was suggested to have been caused by the captain disconnecting the autopilot and directing the aircraft to the ground deliberately. The Moroccan Pilot’s Union challenged these findings. (ASN Accident Description)

December 19, 1997 – 104 fatalities
Silk Air Flight 185, a Boeing 737 en route from Jakarta, Indonesia to Singapore, crashed in Indonesia following a rapid descent from cruising altitude. Indonesian authorities were not able to determine the cause of the accident. It has been suggested by amongst others the U.S. NTSB that the captain may have decided to die by suicide by switching off both flight recorders and intentionally putting the Boeing 737 in a dive, possibly when the first officer had left the flight deck. During 1997 the captain experienced multiple work-related difficulties, particularly during the last 6 months. Also at the time of the accident the captain was experiencing significant financial difficulties, which was disputed by the Indonesian investigators. (ASN Accident Description)

October 11, 1999 – 1 fatality
An Air Botswana captain who had been grounded for medical reasons took off in an ATR-42. He made several demands over the radio and finally stated he was going the crash the plane. He caused the plane to crash into two parked ATR-42 aircraft on the platform at Gaborone Airport, Botswana. (ASN Accident Description)

Egyptair SU-GAP Boeing 767-300 at Dusseldorf Airport. 
The aircraft crashed in the Atlantic Ocean in 1999 as Egyptair Flight 990.

October 31, 1999 – 217 fatalities
Egypt Air Flight 990, a Boeing 767, entered a rapid descent some 30 minutes after departure from New York-JFK Airport. This happened moments after the captain had left the flight deck. During the investigation it was suggested that the accident was caused by a deliberate act by the relief first officer. However, there was no conclusive evidence. The NTSB concluded that the accident was a “result of the relief first officer’s flight control inputs. The reason for the relief first officer’s actions was not determined.” The suggestions of a deliberate act were heavily disputed by Egyptian authorities. (ASN Accident Description)

September 11, 2001 - 2996 fatalities
The September 11 attacks (9/11) were a series of four coordinated terrorist attacks by the Islamic terrorist group al-Qaeda on the United States in New York City and the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area on Tuesday, September 11, 2001. The attacks killed 2,996 people. Four passenger airliners were hijacked by 19 al-Qaeda terrorists to be flown into buildings in suicide attacks. Two of the planes, American Airlines Flight 11 and United Airlines Flight 175, were crashed into the North and South towers, respectively, of the World Trade Center complex in New York City. Within two hours, both 110-story towers collapsed with debris and the resulting fires causing partial or complete collapse of all other buildings in the WTC complex, including the 47-story 7 World Trade Center tower, as well as significant damage to ten other large surrounding structures. A third plane, American Airlines Flight 77, was crashed into the Pentagon (the headquarters of the United States Department of Defense), leading to a partial collapse in its western side. The fourth plane, United Airlines Flight 93, was targeted at Washington, D.C., but crashed into a field near Shanksville, Pennsylvania after its passengers tried to overcome the hijackers. In total, 2,996 people died in the attacks, including the 227 civilians and 19 hijackers aboard the four planes. (For more, see The Copycat Effect, Chapter 4: Planes into Buildings.)

January 5, 2002 - 1 fatality
Soon after 5:00 P.M. on Saturday, January 5, 2002, a 15-year-old named Charles J. Bishop crashed the Cessna plane he had stolen into Tampa, Florida's 42-story Bank of America building. Bishop had clearly modeled his action on the September 11th terrorists' suicide plane crashes. Bishop left a suicide note behind, saying as much, though most of the media merely paraphrased as him saying that he had "admired Osama bin Laden." (For more, see The Copycat Effect, Chapter 4: Planes into Buildings.)

April 18, 2002 - 3 fatalities
On April 18, 2002, after 5:00 P.M. local time, a man apparently acting deliberately flew at top speed into Milan's (and Italy’s) tallest skyscraper, hitting the 25th and 26th floors of the 30-story Pirelli Tower. The skyscraper dominates the skyline of Italy's financial capital, as did the Twin Towers of New York City. Italian Transport Minister Pietro Lunardi and Roberto Formigoni, the president of the region of Lombardy, both said they were convinced that Luigi Fasulo, the pilot of his powerful Rockwell Commander 112TC, had purposely died by suicide. Fasulo's son and others also felt it was a suicidal act. Besides the pilot, two women who worked in the Pirelli Tower were killed. (For more, see The Copycat Effect, Chapter 4: Planes into Buildings.)

November 29, 2013 – 33 fatalities
LAM Flight 470 entered a rapid descent while en route between Maputo and Luanda and crashed in into the Bwabwata National Park, Namibia. Preliminary investigation results indicate that the accident was intentional. The captain made control inputs that directed the plane to the ground, shortly after the first officer had left the flight deck. All 33 passengers and crew were killed. (ASN Accident Description)

March 24, 2015 - 150 fatalities
Germanwings Airbus A320 Flight 9525, en route from Barcelona, Spain to Dusseldorf, Germany, went into a long descent before crashing into the French Alps. The co-pilot left behind in the cockpit, named as 28-year-old Andreas Lubitz, appeared to "show a desire to want to destroy" the plane. (More information, here and here.)

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In 2004, I wrote my book, The Copycat Effect: How the Media and Popular Culture Trigger the Mayhem in Tomorrow's Headlines, and dedicated it to David Phillips for his groundbreaking work that had been largely ignored by most scholars up to that time.

I wrote:
In 1974, University of California at San Diego sociologist David P. Phillips coined the phrase, “The Werther Effect,” to describe the copycat phenomenon. The word “Werther” comes from a 1774 novel, The Sorrows of Young Werther, written by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, the author of Faust. In the story, the youthful character Werther falls in love with a woman who is promised to another. Always melodramatic, Werther decides that his life cannot go on, and that his love is lost. He then dresses in boots, a blue coat, and a yellow vest, sits at his desk with an open book, and, literally at the 11th hour, shoots himself. In the years that followed, throughout Europe, so many young men shot themselves while dressed as Werther had been and seated at their writing desks with an open copy of The Sorrows of Young Werther in front of them, that the book was banned in Italy, Germany, and Denmark.
Today, "The Werther Effect" is more commonly expressed publicly as "The Copycat Effect."

I also observed that sociologist David Phillips noted in 1978 that airplane accident fatalities normally increase just after newspaper stories about murder and suicide. Phillips found an increase in both suicides and murder-suicides following other well-publicized suicides and murder-suicides, including suicides hidden in unrecognized aircraft accidents - especially in single-plane wrecks. Phillips’s theory about a follow-on increase in plane crashes noted some “disguised suicides” followed soon after high media attention to suicides in the news.

Therefore, we should be aware that the media's present high volume of stories on Andreas Lubitz's apparent murder-suicide of 150 people on Flight 9525 probably will lead to more covert and some overt suicides by other pilots and aircraft employees. An increase in single aircraft (so-called "general aviation") crashes in the forthcoming weekend, and then in the following month, are predictable outcomes.

Citations:

Coleman, Loren. The Copycat Effect: How the Media and Popular Culture Trigger the Mayhem in Tomorrow's Headlines. New York: Simon and Schuster, 2004.

Phillips, David P. “Airplane Accident Fatalities Increase just After Newspaper Stories About Suicide and Murder,” Science 20, August 25, 1978.

Phillips, David P. “Airplane Accidents, Murder, and the Mass Media: Towards a Theory of Imitation and Suggestions,” Social Forces 58:4, June 1980.

7 comments:

Red Dirt Report said...

Recall the case of Andrew Joseph "Joe" Stack III. He had an anti-IRS political manifesto and flew his single-engine airplane into the IRS's Echelon building in Austin, Texas in Feb. 2010, killing one person and injuring others. http://www.businessinsider.com/joseph-andrew-stacks-insane-manifesto-2010-2

Red Dirt Report said...

In a Dust Devil Dreams sync piece I posted on March 1st, I recall a strange dream I had involving San Francisco Bay. Although I didn't note it, in the dream I am in a houseboat, plowing through a debris-strewn canal linked to the bay - all the while I am straining to get a look at the Golden Gate Bridge. The context of the dream involves nuclear war and Fukushima. Oddly, this syncs with the dream I had on the morning of 3/11/11, the day of the Fukushima disaster. The dream featured scenes from "Superman: The Movie," a film that also features, later, a nuke being used to blow up San ANDREAS Fault to make way for beachfront property for Lex Luthor (and "Otisburg"). http://www.reddirtreport.com/dust-devil-dreams/nostalgia-clean-winds-kiss

2548da18-8f61-11e4-be32-ff24f3d9087d said...

3/15/15 the Ides of March, with consideration of the disappearance of Flight 370 last March, I commented to "keep our eyes to the sky". Ironically 9 (nein) days later, we are forced to accept what has happened with Flight 9525. German co-pilot Andreas (means manly, brave) Lubitz, 27 years old, on 3/24 (3+24=27) flew a 24 year old plane, which was reported to have been maintanenced 24 hours prior into the French Alps claiming all 150 souls aboard. The very next day, a report is published claiming Adolf Hitler took pain killers 24 times a day. There has been a reoccurrence of Germany and the number 24, one can only ask, why?

2548da18-8f61-11e4-be32-ff24f3d9087d said...

3/15/15 the Ides of March, with consideration of the disappearance of Flight 370 last March, I commented to "keep our eyes to the sky". Ironically 9 (nein) days later, we are forced to accept what has happened with Flight 9525. 3/24 German co-pilot Andreas (means brave, manly) Lubitz whom was 27 years old (3+24=27) flew a airplane which was reported to have been maintenanced 24 hours prior into the French Alps claiming all 150 souls aboard. The very next day a report is published claiming Adolf Hitler took 24 pain killers a day. Germany and the number 24 have reoccured during and after this disaster. But also the date itself 3/24 has seen multiple disasters, 1944 Ardeatine massacre, German soldiers massacre 335 Italian civilians. 1999 Mont Blanc Tunnel fire, a tunnel which connects France and Italy, has a fuel truck catch fire and claims 39. And now a German plane crashes into the French Alps, claiming 150. Italy, France, Germany and the number 24. One can only ask, why?

2548da18-8f61-11e4-be32-ff24f3d9087d said...

3/15/15 the Ides of March, with consideration of the disappearance of Flight 370 last March, I commented to "keep our eyes to the sky". Ironically 9 (nein) days later, we are forced to accept what has happened with Flight 9525. 3/24 German co-pilot Andreas (means brave, manly) Lubitz whom was 27 years old (3+24=27) flew a airplane which was reported to have been maintenanced 24 hours prior into the French Alps claiming all 150 souls aboard. The very next day a report is published claiming Adolf Hitler took 24 pain killers a day. Germany and the number 24 have reoccured during and after this disaster. But also the date itself 3/24 has seen multiple disasters, 1944 Ardeatine massacre, German soldiers massacre 335 Italian civilians. 1999 Mont Blanc Tunnel fire, a tunnel which connects France and Italy, has a fuel truck catch fire and claims 39. And now a German plane crashes into the French Alps, claiming 150. Italy, France, Germany and the number 24. One can only ask, why?

Daniel Sale said...

http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/world-news/germanwings-crash-copycat-wild-tales-5416470

Blue Gate said...

Red Dirt, with regards to your dream about the San Andreas Fault......this weeks Business Insider reported, "A Russian 'Doctor of Military Sciences' says Moscow should just nuke Yellowstone if tensions boil over." Specifically, "...the Russian president of the Academy of Geopolitical Problems outlined two geophysically weak US regions to attack in order to combat NATO's aggression toward Russia." He apparently also justifies, "....complete destruction of the enemy because NATO has been moving the borders of Russia." The scenarios described are either drop a nuclear weapon near Yellowstone's super volcano or the San Andreas Fault. http://www.businessinsider.com/russian-analyst-says-to-nuke-yellowstone-2015-4