Co-pilot ‘deliberately’ crashed plane

A search and rescue worker stands at the crash site of the Germanwings Airbus A320. EPA/Sebastien Nogier

A search and rescue worker stands at the crash site of the Germanwings Airbus A320. EPA/Sebastien Nogier

Seyne-Les-Alpes [AFP]

The co-pilot of the doomed Germanwings flight appears to have ‘deliberately’ crashed the plane into the French Alps after locking his captain out of the cockpit, French officials say.

But they do not believe he was part of a terrorist plot.

In a chilling account of the last minutes of Germanwings Flight 4U 9525, lead prosecutor Brice Robin on Thursday said 28-year-old Andreas Lubitz initiated the plane’s descent while alone at the controls.

The young German appeared to ‘show a desire to want to destroy’ the plane, Robin told reporters, basing his findings on sound recordings from the Airbus A320’s cockpit flight recorder in the minutes before the crash that killed all 150 passengers and crew on board.

Among the dead were Australian nurse Carol Friday and her son Greig, both from Melbourne.

Robin said those on board died ‘instantly’ and probably were not aware until the ‘very last moment’ of the impending disaster.

‘The screams are heard only in the last moments before the impact,’ said the prosecutor.

‘The co-pilot was alone at the controls,’ he said. ‘He … refused to open the door of the cockpit to the pilot.’

The pilot, believed to have gone to the toilet, made increasingly furious attempts to re-enter the cockpit, banging on the door, the recordings show.

There was no immediate clue as to the motive of the co-pilot, but investigators appeared to rule out terrorism.

‘At this moment, there is no indication that this is an act of terrorism,’ Robin said, adding that Lubitz had no known terrorist connection.

Germany’s interior minister echoed this, saying there was so far no indication of ‘a terrorist background.’

Robin also said he was unwilling to use the word ‘suicide’ and could not guess at Lubitz’s motive.

‘Usually when you commit suicide, you do it alone. When you’re responsible for 150 people, I don’t call that a suicide,’ he said.

The co-pilot, who deliberately set the controls ‘to accelerate the plane’s descent’ into the side of a mountain, ‘was conscious until the moment of impact,’ Robin said.

‘This action can only be deliberate. It would be impossible to turn the button by mistake. If you passed out and leaned over on it, it would only go a quarter-turn and do nothing,’ he stressed.

‘He didn’t reply to a thing. He didn’t say a word. In the cockpit, it was utter silence.’

Lufthansa chief executive Carsten Spohr said he was ‘stunned’ by the revelations and had ‘no indication’ on the motives of Lubitz.

He added that no security ‘system in the world’ could have prevented the co-pilot’s actions.

Spohr said Lubitz had passed all psychological tests required for training and underwent regular physical examinations.

The shocking new information was released as families and friends of victims travelled to the remote mountainous crash site area.

Two planes arrived in southern France on Thursday from Barcelona and Duesseldorf with families and friends.

Tents were set up for them to give DNA samples to start the process of identifying the bodies of loved ones, at least 51 of whom were Spaniards and at least 72 Germans.

Meanwhile, the remains of victims, found scattered across the scree-covered slopes, were being taken by helicopter to nearby Seyne-les-Alpes, a source close to the investigation told AFP.

3 responses to “Co-pilot ‘deliberately’ crashed plane”

  1. Roger Graf says:

    The loss of life and in particular, Carol Friday and her son Greig, from Australia among the 149 dead plus the murderous action of the co-pilot is totally regrettable.

    “Lufthansa chief executive Carsten Spohr said that no security ‘system in the world’ could have prevented the co-pilot’s actions.”
    This is not truthful and it now seems that we need to revert back to the cockpit door being available for ingress/egress without any form of ‘internal’ locking device.
    Although hijacking has ceased and terrorism is always a threat, what could be the solution is an ‘Air Marshall’ posted at the proximity of the cockpit door with a 24 hour change of code only accessed by the Air Marshall to allow for the movement of the crew on board to gain access to the cockpit.
    This could have been prevented. The cost would be absorbed by the carrier flag government and passed on to the carrier, and to the passenger flying, however it would reduce the tragedy of this outcome. The last thing we want is a copy-cat.

  2. PeterL says:

    Smaller short haul planes such as A320’s and 737’s etc only have 2 crew in the cockpit, pilot and first officer.
    Many airlines have a rule that if one of the pilots has to use the toilet a member of the cabin crew must be in the cockpit for that time. This would negate the need of flight marshals. But it is not practice in Australia, and should be.
    Long haul heavy aircraft have two crews rotating and up to 4 crew members on the flight deck at all times. So this tragic situation could not happen

    • Roger Graf says:

      The concern I have PeterL is with Flt MH370 which no one has a clue where and what occurred to the aircraft [could be in the Indian Ocean]. Even with a full crew available within the cockpit, there is no guarantee that the crew could be subject to orchestrating a plot to harm the passengers and crew.
      Thinking carefully now, I would equip the Air Marshall with GPS [to ensure the flight path is correct for its heading] and an altimeter to ensure no deliberate drop in height through the course of the flight.
      No passenger or crew member should be subjected to a terror/suicide/murder mission with a ‘barred’ door unable to change their course of existence.

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