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Turkish Airlines CEO: Pilots Should Get Married to Ensure Emotional Health

Temel Kotil, the CEO of Turkish Airlines, made headlines this week by recommending marriage as the best way to avoid future murder-suicide plane crashes, like the one co-pilot Andreas Lubitz carried out aboard a Germanwings airliner.

As related by Hurriyet Daily NewsKotil’s remarks offer a lesson in how any fair point can be rendered outlandish by taking it too far. “That crash happened after the pilot, who caused the accident, broke up with his girlfriend. Hence, my friends, know that we are absolutely encouraging single pilots to marry,” Kotil reportedly told a group of new pilots beginning service with his carrier.

Lubitz’ personal life and emotional turmoil were naturally topics of great interest for people around the world, as they sought to understand how he could commit such a terrible act. There were many conflicting stories about his love life in the early days after the crash.

At the end of March, his fiance was finally identified as a 26-year-old math teacher named Kathrin Goldbach. She shared an apartment with Lubitz in Montabaur, Germany, and was pregnant with his child at the time of his death. The couple knew each other since their teens and had been living together for about four years.

Goldbach is apparently the source of two stories about Lubitz widely repeated by the media: he had at least one vivid nightmare about dying in a plane crash, and he declared he would one day “do something that will change the whole system, and then all will know my name and remember it.” Some sources attributed these stories to an ex-girlfirend, but International Business Times says it was Goldbach, incorrectly identified with an alias in early reports.

Lubitz was trying to get married, but according to the New York PostGoldbach broke up with him the day before the crash, two weeks after informing him that she was pregnant. According to this account, she was weary of his “insecure, controlling personality” and fearful of his mood swings. A friend of hers described Lubitz as a “control freak of the highest order,” who tried to dictate her wardrobe choices and control which men she was allowed to speak with. Lubitz’s widely-reported purchase of new cars for himself and Goldbach was apparently an unsuccessful last-ditch effort to keep her.

International Business Times reports Goldbach is afraid to return to Montabaur because of people who blame her for driving Lubitz to crash the plane. “The hatred of the world is coming down upon her, and you know this place is so small, it is very hard for them to come back here,” said a family friend.

To be sure, the Turkish Airlines CEO is oversimplifying the situation by recommending pilots ensure their mental health by getting married, although there is considerable evidence of a link between marriage and both mental and physical health, especially as people get older and children enter the relationship. (The reverse causal relationship must also be considered: mentally and emotionally healthy people may be more likely to get married and stay that way for long periods of time.) The Western world is not far removed from a time when marriage was widely considered a character asset for men, particularly those considered for stressful jobs.

Whatever else one might say about Kotil’s remarks, he cannot be accused of sexism because he complained about the low number of female pilots working for Turkish Airlines, and he strongly encouraged more women to pursue piloting careers: “We currently only have 40 female pilots in our fleet. If half of our 4,000 pilots were female, there would be 2,000 women. … At least 10 percent of our pilots should be female, meaning 400 in total. I invite all women who meet the criteria to become pilots.”

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