Send to

Choose Destination
Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2018 Mar 11;15(3). pii: E491. doi: 10.3390/ijerph15030491.

Copycats in Pilot Aircraft-Assisted Suicides after the Germanwings Incident.

Author information

Mehiläinen Kielotie Health Centre, Vantaa 01300, Finland.
Department of Forensic Medicine, University of Helsinki and Mehiläinen Airport Health Centre, Lentäjäntie 1 E, 01530 Vantaa, Finland.
Royal Free Hospital, Pond Street, London NW3 2QG, UK.
Centre for Aviation Psychology, London NW3 1ND, UK.
Center for Human Identification, University of North Texas Health Science Center, 3500 Camp Bowie Blvd., Fort Worth, TX 76107, USA.
Center of Excellence in Genomic Medicine Research (CEGMR), King Abdulaziz University, Jeddah 21577, Saudi Arabia.
The Maitland Hospital, Maitland 2320, Australia.
Faculty of Social Sciences, University of Tampere, 33100 Tampere, Finland.
Department of Forensic Medicine, University of Helsinki, 00014 Helsinki, Finland.


Aircraft-assisted pilot suicide is a rare but serious phenomenon. The aim of this study was to evaluate changes in pilot aircraft-assisted suicide risks, i.e., a copycat effect, in the U.S. and Germany after the Germanwings 2015 incident in the French Alps. Aircraft-assisted pilot suicides were searched in the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) accident investigation database and in the German Bundestelle für Flugunfalluntersuchung (BFU) Reports of Investigation database five years before and two years after the deliberate crash of the Germanwings flight into the French Alps in 2015. The relative risk (RR) of the aircraft-assisted pilot suicides was calculated. Two years after the incident, three out of 454 (0.66%) fatal incidents were aircraft-assisted suicides compared with six out of 1292 (0.46%) in the prior five years in the NTSB database. There were no aircraft-assisted pilot suicides in the German database during the two years after or five years prior to the Germanwings crash. The relative aircraft-assisted pilot suicide risk for the U.S. was 1.4 (95% CI 0.3-4.2) which was not statistically significant. Six of the pilots who died by suicide had told someone of their suicidal intentions. We consider changes in the rate to be within a normal variation. Responsible media coverage of aircraft incidents is important due to the large amount of publicity that these events attract.


Werther effect; aircraft-assisted pilot suicide; aviation safety; copycat phenomenon

[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

Supplemental Content

Full text links

Icon for Multidisciplinary Digital Publishing Institute (MDPI) Icon for PubMed Central
Loading ...
Support Center