An Airbus A320 operated by Germanwings, the budget carrier of Germany’s Lufthansa crashes in a remote area of the French Alps Tuesday, near the ski resort of Barcelonnette, killing all 150 on board in the worst plane disaster in mainland France for four decades. The Airbus A320 plunged for eight minutes into a snowbound inaccessible mountain area in southeastern France. French officials say no distress signal had been issued. The plane, carrying 144 mainly Spanish and German passengers and six crew, was travelling from Barcelona to the western German city of Duesseldorf when it came down. Civil aviation authorities
The crew did not send a Mayday. It was air traffic control that decided to declare the plane was in distress because there was no contact with the crew of the plane
We’ve never had a total loss of aircraft in the company’s history until now.
Audio recovered from the cockpit voice recorder indicates one pilot left the cockpit before the plane began its descent and was unable to get back in. A senior military investigator:
The guy outside is knocking lightly on the door and there is no answer. And then he hits the door stronger and no answer. … 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. But what is sure is that at the very end of the flight, the other pilot is alone and does not open the door.
French Prosecutor Brice Robin claims that Lubitz, the co-pilot, crashed the plane deliberately.
While the co-pilot was alone he locked the door and engaged a system which started the descent of the plane. This can only be done voluntarily….The co-pilot didn’t say a single word while he was alone and could be heard breathing normally. It wasn’t the breath of someone who was struggling. He didn’t say a single word, it was total silence.
German authorities find torn-up sick notes showing that Lubitz was dealing with an illness that should have kept him from flying on the day of the crash. Lubitz apparently hid these notes from the airline. German law requires employees to immediately inform their employers if they are unable to work.
Documents with medical contents were confiscated that point towards an existing illness and corresponding treatment by doctors…The fact there are sick notes saying he was unable to work, among other things, that were found torn up, which were recent and even from the day of the crime, support the assumption based on the preliminary examination that the deceased hid his illness from his employer and his professional colleagues.
Police find a variety of medications at Lubitz’s apartment in Dusseldorf, suggesting Lubitz had a serious psychosomatic illness. An ex-lover, Maria, claims Lubitz told her he was planning an act so heinous his name would be remembered forever. Lubitz had said:
One day I will do something that will change the whole system, and then all will know my name and remember it.
Maria also said Lubitz was a tormented, erratic man who was great at hiding his darkest thoughts. He would wake up from nightmares screaming, “We’re going down!”
We spoke a lot about work and then he became another person. He became agitated about the circumstances in which he had to work, too little money, anxiety about his contract and too much pressure. During conversations he’d suddenly throw a tantrum and scream at me. I was afraid. He even once locked me in the bathroom for a long time. The torn up sick notes make sense now to me and were a clear sign that he did not want to admit that his big dream of flying as a captain was over.
Crash investigators have have found no intact bodies and up to 600 pieces of human remains. The remains were flown to Paris. Families at the site have been asked to provide DNA samples from personal items like toothbrushes and jewelry to match remains to names. A make-shift laboratory has been set up across two hotels in Barcelona, where the families are staying. Families have also been asked if they can recall what clothing the victims may have been wearing, and if they had any distinctive features such as tattoos. It could take two weeks to finish the recovery.
New information in the case is revealed by police: Lubitz visited gay porn websites as well as websites relating to suicide; he had received medical treatment for vision problems, causing him to fear he was losing his eyesight; Lubitz was often the target of gossip about his sexuality and was given the nickname “Tomato Andy”; in the months leading up to the crash, he was being treated by four psychiatrists; a “small mountain” of antidepressants were found at his apartment; and in his diary, Lubitz expressed his fears that he would be “found out” and would then lose his job. He also wrote:
I have too much work and I am not able to do my job properly.
A German police source:
We have a team disassembling his computer, and that of his girlfriend, because the information that we received was that he trawled the dark side of the web visiting, among other things, sites containing gay porn, suicide themes and sexual perversions.
German prosecutor Kumpa says Lubitz had received treatment for suicidal tendencies before becoming pilot.
Several years before Lubitz became a pilot he had at that time been in treatment of a psychotherapist because of what is documented as being suicidal. In the following period, and until recently, further doctor’s visits took place, resulting in sick notes without any suicidal tendencies or aggression against others being recorded.
Crash scene investigators find body parts belonging to Lubitz. The investigation’s chief forensic scientist confirms this bit of news. Forensic experts are analyzing over 600 body parts scattered across an inaccessible valley.
Lufthansa says Lubitz had informed the flight school about his previous mental health issues in 2009. Lufthansa:
In his correspondence, he informed the Flight Training Pilot School in 2009… about a previous episode of severe depression.
Analysis of a tablet device retrieved from Lubitz’s Dusseldorf apartment, shows he was researching suicide methods and cockpit-door security days before the crash. The search history also revealed searches for medical treatment.
During this time the user was searching for medical treatments, as well as informing himself about ways and possibilities of killing himself. On at least one day the person concerned also spent several minutes looking up search terms about cockpit doors and their safety measures.
Data from second black box of plane suggests that co-pilot Lubitz deliberately accelerated its descent. French BEA crash investigation agency:
The second flight recorder, recovered on Thursday, showed that the pilot in the cockpit used the automatic pilot to put the airplane on a descent towards an altitude of 100ft (30m)…Then several times the pilot modified the automatic pilot settings to increase the speed of the airplane as it descended.
Investigators say Lubitz practiced entering the fatal descent settings on the previous, outbound flight. The changes in autopilot settings, mimicking those which, two hours later, crashed the jet on its way back to Duesseldorf from Barcelona, would barely have been noticeable because the jet was already descending. Investigator:
I can’t speculate on what was happening inside his head; all I can say is that he changed this button to the minimum setting of 100 feet and he did it several times.