Co-Pilot Made ‘Deliberate Attempt’ To Crash Germanwings Plane, Prosecutor Says
(CNN) — Audio from the mangled voice recorder of Germanwings Flight 9525 reveals the captain was locked out of the cockpit while the co-pilot appeared to make a deliberate attempt to destroy the plane, Marseille prosecutor Brice Robin said Thursday.
The co-pilot of the doomed Germanwings flight “activated the descent” of the plane when he was alone in the cockpit, Robin said. That can only be done deliberately, he said.
From what investigators have found, it seems the co-pilot “wanted to destroy the aircraft,” the prosecutor said.
However, as of now, there’s “nothing to allow us to say that it was a terrorist attack,” he said.
Robin said the co-pilot was a German national and not on any terrorism list. He named him as Andreas Lubitz.
When a reporter asked Robin whether he knew Lubitz’s religion, Robin said that he did not know.
The most plausible explanation of the crash is that the co-pilot “through deliberate abstention, refused to open the cabin door … to the chief pilot, and used the button” to cause the plane to lose altitude, Robin said.
Screaming could be heard on the audio recording only in the last few minutes, and death was instantaneous for those on board, he said.
Robin said he was not thinking of the Germanwings crash as a suicide, explaining: “When you are responsible for 150 people, I don’t call it a suicide.”
Bodies won’t be released yet
Robin said he did not know if the co-pilot planned his actions in advance, saying only that he “took advantage” of the pilot leaving the cockpit.
The co-pilot was “fully qualified to pilot the aircraft on his own,” Robin added. The audio recording showed his breathing to be steady, with no sign that he had a heart attack or other medical issue.
He only had about 100 hours of experience on the type of aircraft he was flying, but he had all the necessary certifications and qualifications to pilot the aircraft alone, the prosecutor said.
The bodies of the Germanwings crash victims will not be released until all DNA identification work has been done — a process likely to last several weeks, Robin said.
Robin said he had told the families of the crash victims all the same information he was telling reporters at the news conference.
The families of the two pilots are also in France but are not in the same place as the relatives, he said.
Robin emphasized that his conclusions were preliminary.
‘Terribly shocking’ revelation
The revelation about the cockpit audio was first reported by The New York Times and Agence France-Presse.
“You can hear he is trying to smash the door down,” a senior military official involved in the investigation told The New York Times.
“We don’t know yet the reason why one of the guys went out. But what is sure is that at the very end of the flight, the other pilot is alone and does not open the door.”
AFP also reported that a pilot was locked out, citing a source close to the investigation.
Lufthansa, the parent company of low-cost airline Germanwings, said then it was looking into the reports.
“We have no information from the bodies investigating the incident that would corroborate the report in The New York Times,” spokesman Boris Ogursky said. “We will not participate in speculation, but we will follow up on the matter.”
The Times’ report is a “terribly shocking revelation,” CNN aviation analyst Peter Goelz said. But he and other experts cautioned that it’s still unclear what could have been going on inside the cockpit.
An array of theories
Possibilities range from a medical emergency to something more nefarious, such as a suicide mission, CNN aviation analysts said before the prosecutor’s news conference.
Geoffrey Thomas, editor-in-chief of airlineratings.com, said the cockpit door has three positions, citing A320 captains and the aircraft manual — unlocked, normal and locked.
The door would usually be in the “normal” position, but if the Times report is true, it would appear that after one of the pilots left the cockpit, it was switched to the “locked” position. This prevents the other pilot from using a keypad and emergency code to get in from the outside, he said.
The chances of this happening accidentally if the pilot became incapacitated, at the same time as him knocking the side stick to put the plane into a dive, would appear to be “beyond the realms of mathematical possibility,” Thomas said.
Officials previously said they hadn’t ruled out terrorism, but that it seems unlikely.
Second ‘black box’ still lost
Finding the plane’s second “black box” will also be critical to understanding the mystery of what went on inside the jet.
That box, the flight data recorder, hasn’t been found yet, but Lufthansa CEO Carsten Spohr said Wednesday that there’s a high probability it will be.
Senior executives from Germanwings and Lufthansa are also due to give a news conference Thursday.
The Germanwings media office told CNN the captain of Flight 9525 had more than 6,000 hours of flight time. He has been with Germanwings since May 2014 and had worked with Lufthansa and Condor before then.
The co-pilot has been with Germanwings since September 2013 and had completed 630 hours of flight time, the media office said. The co-pilot had trained at the Lufthansa flight training center in Bremen, Germany.
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