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