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Germanwings co-pilot put plane into decent prosecutor says

Seyne-les-Alpes, France - The co-pilot of the German airliner that crashed in the southern French Alps apparently locked the chief pilot out of the cockpit and caused the plane to crash, as passengers could be heard screaming, a French prosecutor said Thursday.


March 26, 2015
By The Associated Press

The co-pilot of Germanwings Flight 4U92595, identified as a 28-year-old German national named Andreas Lubitz, appeared to want to “destroy the plane,” Marseille prosecutor Brice Robin said. The co-pilot was breathing and alive until the plane hit the ground, Robin said.

The Airbus A320, on a flight from Barcelona to Duesseldorf, began to descend from its cruising altitude and slammed into a remote mountainside in the French Alps on Tuesday, killing all 150 people on board.

Lufthansa chief executive Carsten Spohr said he has been left “speechless” by the revelations about the plane’s co-pilot.

Lubitz pilot had been alone in the cockpit after the chief pilot left to use the washroom. Robin said audio recovered from the the cockpit voice recorder indicated that the co-pilot didn’t say a word while he was alone in control of the plane. 

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“It was absolute silence in the cockpit,” he said. 

The chief pilot tried to get back into the cockpit but was unable to regain access.

Robin said Lubitz apparently pushed a button that put the plane into a descent. The jet dropped thousands of metres before it hit the ground.

In the final minutes of the flight, terrain warning alarms sounded and pounding could be heard on the cockpit door, Robin said.

The plane did not respond to communication from air traffic controllers and did not issue a distress call before it crashed, he added.

Just before the crash, screams could be heard on the audio recording, the prosecutor told reporters.

Since the Sept. 11 attacks, it has been standard operating procedure for airlines in the United States to require a flight attendant to be present in the cockpit when one of the pilots briefly leaves. Spohr said airlines in Europe do not have that requirement.

Lubitz had never been flagged as a terrorist, Robin said. He declined to provide details on Lubitz’s religion or ethnic background, adding that German authorities are taking charge of the investigation into the co-pilot.

German Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere said authorities checked intelligence and police databases on the day of the crash, and Lufthansa told them that regular security checks also turned up nothing untoward on the co-pilot.

Speaking at a news conference in Cologne, Spohr said the airline had no indication of why the co-pilot would have crashed the plane. 

“We choose our staff very, very carefully,” Spohr said.

The airline’s pilots undergo yearly medical examination but that doesn’t include psychological tests, he told reporters.

In the German town of Montabaur, acquaintances said Lubitz showed no signs of depression when they saw him last fall as he renewed his glider pilot’s licence.

“He was happy he had the job with Germanwings, and he was doing well,” said a member of the glider club, Peter Ruecker, who watched him learn to fly. “He gave off a good feeling.”

Lubitz had obtained his glider pilot’s licence as a teenager and was accepted as a Lufthansa pilot trainee after finishing a tough German college preparatory school, Ruecker said. He described Lubitz as a “rather quiet” but friendly young man.

Related: Could MH370 have met a similar fate?