Ger­man­wings co-pi­lot An­dreas Lu­b­itz was alone in cock­pit, de­lib­er­ately acted to ‘de­stroy the plane’ against French Alps moun­tain: pros­e­cu­tor

The Star (St. Lucia) - - INTERNATIONAL -

The co-pi­lot of doomed Ger­man­wings Flight 9525 de­lib­er­ately acted to “de­stroy the plane,” as he was alone in the cock­pit and man­u­ally guided the air­craft on its dis­as­trous de­scent into a moun­tain­side in the French Alps, an in­ves­ti­ga­tor said Thurs­day.

The co-pi­lot, An­dreas Lu­b­itz, said “not one word” as the flight’s pi­lot des­per­ately tried to reen­ter the locked cock­pit dur­ing the Air­bus A320’s eight-minute de­scent into death, which claimed the lives of 150 pas­sen­gers and crew near Seyne, France, on Tues­day. Lu­b­itz, a 28-year-old Ger­man living in Montabaur, Ger­many, kept the cock­pit door locked af­ter the cap­tain got up to use the bath­room, Mar­seille pros­e­cu­tor Brice Robin said dur­ing a press con­fer­ence. One of the plane’s flight-data recorders re­vealed that Lu­b­itz did not panic, with his breath­ing re­main­ing steady as he pi­loted the pas­sen­gers to their deaths. The de­scent from cruis­ing altitude into the moun­tain­side, which cov­ered roughly 32,000 feet, re­quired Lu­b­itz to ma­neu­ver a lever “mul­ti­ple times,” Robin said, and could not have been done au­to­mat­i­cally.

“We con­clude for all cir­cum­stances that it was de­lib­er­ate,” Robin said.

There was no re­sponse from the cock­pit de­spite sev­eral calls from air-traf­fic con­trollers on the ground. “There was no an­swer what­so­ever; no an­swer to their many calls,” Robin said. he cap­tain, who has not been named, was heard on a cock­pit record­ing bang­ing on the door re­peat­edly and yelling for it to be opened.

Air­bus A320 plane’s have a key­pad out­side the cock­pit that can un­lock the door from the main cabin. But that ac­cess code, known to the en­tire flight crew, can be dis­abled by some­one in­side the cock­pit. Au­thor­i­ties say they be­lieve Lu­b­itz ac­ti­vated the over­ride to keep out his col­leagues.

The cock­pit door locks au­to­mat­i­cally when closed. Screams from pas­sen­gers were only heard at “the very last mo­ments be­fore im­pact,” Robin said, in­di­cat­ing they didn’t know their fate un­til just be­fore the end.

Lu­b­itz was not on any ter­ror­ist watch list, Robin said. He had only 100 hours of flight ex­pe­ri­ence on an Air­bus A320 but was “fully qual­i­fied” to pi­lot the air­craft, Robin said. The cap­tain, mean­while, was much more ex­pe­ri­enced, hav­ing had some 10,000 flight hours, Robin said.

Alarms could be heard on the record­ing, Robin said, just be­fore the plane plowed into the moun­tain at 435 mph. “Death was in­stan­ta­neous,” Robin said.

Prior to the crash, Lu­b­itz gave “curt” an­swers to his cap­tain dur­ing a dis­cus­sion per­tain­ing to the flight check­list, the pros­e­cu­tor said.

The Ger­man­wings plane was trav­el­ing from Barcelona to Dus­sel­dorf and was less than an hour into the flight when it crashed. Lu­b­itz “was 100% fit to fly with­out re­stric­tions” af­ter pass­ing all flight and med­i­cal ex­am­i­na­tions. Lufthansa pi­lots do un­dergo an­nual phys­i­cal tests, but not psy­cho­log­i­cal ex­ams.

“This makes us speech­less at Lufthansa — Ger­man­wings ... be­yond dis­may,” Lufthansa CEO Carsten Spohr told re­porters. There were no im­me­di­ate plans to change train­ing pro­to­col, Sphor said, as the com­pany works to “cope with what hap­pened” with vic­tims’ fam­i­lies and em­ploy­ees.

Amer­i­can air­lin­ers adopted a pol­icy in the wake of 9/11 re­quir­ing at least two peo­ple in the cock­pit at all times. If a pi­lot goes to the bath­room, a flight at­ten­dant is re­quired to go into the cock­pit, for in­stance. Such a pol­icy is not the norm for many Euro­pean air­line com­pa­nies, in­clud­ing Lufthansa, Spohr said. There is “no sys­tem in the world that can rule out such an iso­lated event,” he said. “We all trust the se­lec­tion process and the train­ing we have,” he told re­porters. “Of course we will con­sider what we can im­prove, but that does not change my prin­ci­ple trust in Lufthansa’s train­ing for decades.”

Lu­b­itz earned a glider’s pi­lot li­cense as a teen be­fore he made his way into the Lufthansa ranks as a com­mer­cial avi­a­tor af­ter suc­ceed­ing at a flight prep school.

He joined the com­pany in Septem­ber 2013 and had flown a to­tal of 630 hours, in­clud­ing the 100 hours he logged at the wheel of an Air­bus A320.

Air­bus group Chief Ex­ec­u­tive Of­fi­cer Tom En­ders

ar­rives at crash site.

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