French in­ves­ti­ga­tors re­veal co-pi­lot ac­cel­er­ated air­craft dur­ing de­scent

The China Post - - INTERNATIONAL - BY AN­GELA CHARL­TON

The co- pi­lot of the doomed Ger­man­wings flight re­peat­edly sped up the plane as he used the au­to­matic pi­lot to de­scend the A320 into the Alps, the French air ac­ci­dent in­ves­ti­ga­tion agency said Fri­day.

The chill­ing new de­tail from the BEA agency is based on an ini­tial read­ing of the plane’s “black box” data recorder, found black­ened and buried at the crash site Thurs­day.

It strength­ens in­ves­ti­ga­tors’ ini­tial sus­pi­cions that co- pi­lot An­dreas Lu­b­itz in­ten­tion­ally de­stroyed the plane — though pros­e­cu­tors are still try­ing to fig­ure out why. All 150 peo­ple aboard Flight 9525 from Barcelona to Duesseldorf were killed in the March 24 crash.

The BEA said the pre­lim­i­nary read­ing of the data recorder shows that the pi­lot used the au­to­matic pi­lot to put the plane into a de­scent and then re­peat­edly dur­ing the de­scent ad­justed the au­to­matic pi­lot to speed up the plane.

The agency says it will con­tinue study­ing the black box for more com­plete de­tails of what hap­pened. The Flight Data Recorder records air­craft pa­ram­e­ters such as the speed, altitude, and ac­tions of the pi­lot on the com­mands.

Based on record­ings from the plane’s other black box, the cock­pit voice recorder, in­ves­ti­ga­tors say Lu­b­itz locked the pi­lot out of the cock­pit and de­lib­er­ately crashed.

Lu­b­itz spent time on­line re­search­ing sui­cide meth­ods and cock­pit door se­cu­rity in the week be­fore crash­ing Flight 9525, pros­e­cu­tors said Thurs­day — the first ev­i­dence that the fa­tal de­scent may have been a pre­med­i­tated act.

Ger­man pros­e­cu­tors have said Lu­b­itz’s med­i­cal records from be­fore he re­ceived his pi­lot’s li­cense re­ferred to “sui­ci­dal ten­den­cies,” and Lufthansa, Ger­man­wings’ par­ent com­pany, said it knew six years ago that Lu­b­itz had had an episode of “se­vere de­pres­sion” be­fore he fin­ished his flight train­ing.

In Mar­seille, pros­e­cu­tor Brice Robin said that his in­ves­ti­ga­tion fo­cuses on France for now, but he has filed a for­mal re­quest for ju­di­cial co­op­er­a­tion from Ger­many that could ex­pand the scope of his probe.

Robin un­der­lined French in­ves­ti­ga­tors’ con­vic­tion that he was con­scious un­til the mo­ment of im­pact, and ap­pears to have acted re­peat­edly to stop an ex­ces­sive speed alarm from sound­ing.

“It’s a vol­un­tary ac­tion that guided this plane to­ward the moun­tain, not only los­ing altitude but cor­rect­ing the air­craft’s speed,” he said Thurs­day.

The moun­tain res­cue of­fi­cer who found the data recorder, Alice Cold­efy, de­scribed Fri­day the un­ex­pected dis­cov­ery in a spot that had al­ready been re­peat­edly searched.

“I found a pile of clothes, we were search­ing it, we were mov­ing them down­hill and while do­ing this I dis­cov­ered a box. The color of the box was the same as the gravel, of the black gravel, that is ev­ery­where at the crash site,” she told re­porters in Seyne-les-Alpes.

So-called black boxes are ac­tu­ally or­ange, but this one had burned up in the crash and blended with the dark earth cov­er­ing the area, known to lo­cal guides as “the black lands.”

“I didn’t re­al­ize I had found it and I wasn’t think­ing it was pos­si­ble to find it among all this de­bris,” she said.

Moun­tain of­fi­cers and trained dogs are con­tin­u­ing to search the site. When the ter­rain is fully cleared of body parts and be­long­ings, a pri­vate com­pany will take out the large air­plane de­bris.

AP

Gen­eral David Galtier dis­plays a pic­ture show­ing the sec­ond black box from the Ger­man­wings plane that crashed in the French Alps last week, dur­ing a press con­fer­ence in Mar­seille, south­ern France, Thurs­day, April 2.

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