The New York Times reports that today, March 26, 2015, French officials said that Andreas Lubitz, the co-pilot of Germanwings flight 9525 deliberately crashed the aircraft. Voice recorder evidence shows that he had locked the captain out of the cockpit, ignored his pleas for re-entry and steered down into the French Alps as passengers were heard screaming.
The top executive of Lufthansa, the parent company of Germanwings, said he was speechless at the news from France.
Prosecutor Brice Robin said it appeared that Lubitz’s intention was “to destroy the aircraft.” Voice recorder showed that the co-pilot had been breathing until before the moment of impact, suggesting that he was conscious and deliberate in bringing the plane down and killing all 150 abroad.
The assertions instantly changed the nature of the Tuesday crash into a wide-ranging criminal investigation that focused on Lubitz the co-pilot, a 27-year-old German with no obvious reason to commit mass murder, who had been hired less than two years ago. (Read more, here.)
From the New York Times:
PARIS – As officials struggled Wednesday to explain why a jet with 150 people on board crashed in relatively clear skies, an investigator said evidence from a cockpit voice recorder indicated one pilot left the cockpit before the plane’s descent and was unable to get back in.
A senior military official involved in the investigation described “very smooth, very cool” conversation between the pilots during the early part of the flight from Barcelona to Düsseldorf. Then the audio indicated that one of the pilots left the cockpit and could not re-enter.
“The guy outside is knocking lightly on the door and there is no answer,” the investigator said. “And then he hits the door stronger and no answer. There is never an answer.”
He said, “You can hear he is trying to smash the door down.” […]
“We don’t know yet the reason why one of the guys went out,” said the official, who requested anonymity because the investigation is continuing. “But what is sure is that at the very end of the flight, the other pilot is alone and does not open the door.”
The data from the voice recorder seems only to deepen the mystery surrounding the crash and provides no indication of the condition or activity of the pilot who remained in the cockpit. The descent from 38,000 feet over about 10 minutes was alarming but still gradual enough to indicate that the twin-engine Airbus A320 had not been damaged catastrophically. At no point during the descent was there any communication from the cockpit to air traffic controllers or any other signal of an emergency.
When the plane plowed into craggy mountains northeast of Nice, it was traveling with enough speed that it was all but pulverized, killing the 144 passengers and crew of six and leaving few clues. […]
The flight’s trajectory ahead of the crash also left many unanswered questions.
But minutes later, the plane inexplicably began to descend, Mr. Jouty said. At 10:40 and 47 seconds, the plane reported its last radar position, at an altitude of 6,175 feet. “The radar could follow the plane until the point of impact,” he said.
Mr. Jouty said the plane slammed into a mountainside and disintegrated, scattering debris over a wide area, and making it difficult to analyze what had happened. […]
A senior French official involved in the investigation, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said that the lack of communication from the pilots during the plane’s descent was disturbing, and that the possibility that their silence was deliberate could not be ruled out.
“I don’t like it,” said the French official, who cautioned that his initial analysis was based on the very limited information currently available. “To me, it seems very weird: this very long descent at normal speed without any communications, though the weather was absolutely clear.”
“So far, we don’t have any evidence that points clearly to a technical explanation,” the official said. “So we have to consider the possibility of deliberate human responsibility.” […]
Speaking on the French radio station RTL, Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said on Wednesday morning that terrorism was not a likely “hypothesis at the moment,” but that no theories had been definitively excluded. He said the size of the area over which debris was scattered suggested that the aircraft had not exploded in the air but rather had disintegrated on impact.
Lufthansa, the parent company of Germanwings, has characterized the crash as an accident. The airline has not disclosed the identities of the pilots, except to say that the captain was a 10-year veteran with more than 6,000 hours of flying time in A320s.
H/t my friend Don Hanks, who wrote this comment with which I heartily agree:
If the names of the pilots are ever disclosed, we may have a clue.