BRUSSELS, BELGIUM - A European regulator found "issues'' with Germany's aviation authority in a regular review of air safety enforcement, the European Union's executive body said Saturday.
Its statement did not say when the review was carried out, but The Wall Street Journal said the European Commission told Berlin in November "to remedy the long-standing problems'' — months before last week's Germanwings crash that killed all 150 people aboard.
The Journal said it was unclear whether the deficiencies identified at the aviation authority, the Luftfahrtbundesamt (LBA), were factors in the crash. But the newspaper cited two people familiar with the matter as saying European Union officials had found the LBA had a lack of staff, which could have limited its ability to carry out checks on planes and crew, such as medical checks.
Vetting of airline crew is in the spotlight after the German budget airline flight crashed in the French Alps. French prosecutors say they believe co-pilot Andreas Lubitz crashed the plane deliberately.
A spokeswoman for the LBA said the European Aviation Safety Agency's audits of national aviation authorities such as the LBA take place several times a year. She said the LBA had answered a single-figure number of criticisms leveled at it during the audits, and those responses were now being assessed by EASA.
Parent company Lufthansa has said Lubitz told officials at an airline training school that he had gone through a period of severe depression in the past, raising questions about whether medical checks of crew members by air-safety regulators and airlines are rigorous enough.
The LBA told German newspaper Welt am Sonntag it had "no information at all'' about Lubitz's medical background until after the crash. An LBA spokeswoman gave no immediate comment on the report when contacted by Reuters.
French air accident authority BEA has said its investigation into the Germanwings crash would study "systemic weaknesses'' that might have led to the disaster, including psychological profiling.