As a frantic pilot pounded on the cockpit door and passengers screamed in panic, the Germanwings co-pilot intentionally sent Flight 9525 straight into the side of a mountain in the French Alps, a prosecutor said on Thursday.
At a news conference in Paris, Marseille prosecutor Brice Robin laid out the horrifying conclusions reached by French aviation investigators after listening to the last minutes of the Tuesday morning flight from Barcelona to Duesseldorf.
German Andreas Lubitz, 28, left in sole control of the Airbus A320 after the captain left the cockpit, refused to re-open the door and operated a control that sent the plane into its final, fatal descent, the prosecutor Brice Robin told a news conference.
“Alone at the controls of this Airbus A320, the co-pilot manipulates the buttons of the flight monitoring system, to effect the descent of the aircraft. The act of selecting the altitude can only be deliberate,” he said.
“The most plausible, realistic interpretation as far as we are concerned is that the co-pilot — through voluntary abstention, through voluntary abstention — refused to open the door of the cabin to the captain,” he added.
Robin said Lubitz was not known as a terrorist and there were no grounds to consider the crash as a terrorist incident.
Robin said just before the plane hit the mountain, the sounds of passengers screaming could be heard on the audio.
“I think the victims realised just at the last moment,” he said.
Lufthansa chief executive Carsten Spohr said he is “stunned” by the French prosecutor’s conclusion.
“We choose our staff very, very carefully,” he told a news conference in Cologne, Germany, adding that the airline had no indication of why the co-pilot would have crashed the plane. Spohr said pilots undergo yearly medical examination but that doesn’t include psychological tests.
Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy said he was “shocked by the latest details.” In a message on his official Twitter account, Rajoy said that once again he sends “an emotional embrace to the families” of those who died in Tuesday’s crash in France. The 150 victims included 50 from Spain.
The Airbus A320 began to descend from cruising altitude after losing radio contact with ground control and slammed into the remote mountain, killing all on board.
The families of victims were briefed on the investigators’ conclusions just ahead of the announcement.
It’s rare for pilots to intentionally crash commercial airliners, but Tuesday’s Germanwings jet crash in the French Alps isn’t the first where suspicion fell on a pilot.
Pilot suicide is among the various theories in last year’s mysterious disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370. Here are other examples:
— Nov. 29, 2013: A Mozambique Airlines plane crashes in northern Namibia, killing all 27 passengers and six crew. A preliminary investigation points to a deliberate act by the captain after he locked the co-pilot out of the cockpit.
— Oct. 31, 1999: EgyptAir Flight 990 crashes into the Atlantic Ocean after taking off from New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport. All 217 on board are killed. U.S. investigators say the co-pilot cut power to the engines, turned the plane downward and repeated the phrase, “I rely on God.” Egyptian officials have rejected the findings and say the crash may have been caused by a problem in the tail.
— Dec. 19, 1997: SilkAir Flight 185 plunges into a river in Indonesia, killing all 104 aboard. U.S. investigators say the captain probably crashed the plane on purpose, but an Indonesian investigation was inconclusive.
— Aug. 21, 1994: A Royal Air Maroc flight crashes into a mountain after takeoff from Agadir, Morocco. All 44 aboard are killed. Commission investigating the crash says pilot intentionally plunged the plane to the Earth because he wished to commit suicide. The flight union disputes that finding.
— Feb. 9, 1982. A Japan Airlines jet crashes into Tokyo Bay on approach to Haneda Airport. Twenty-four of the 174 people on board were killed. The crash was blamed on the captain, who was later declared mentally unstable
Reporting by The Associated Press and Reuters.
Aviation Security Analyst Mike Boyd on Germanwings co-pilot
For more on the role of the co-pilot and a closer look at this latest air catastrophe, which is now a criminal investigation, CCTV America interviewed Aviation Security Analyst, Mike Boyd.
Aviation Security Analyst Mike Boyd on Germanwings co-pilotFor more on the role of the co-pilot and a closer look at this latest air catastrophe, which is now a criminal investigation, CCTV America interviewed Aviation Security Analyst, Mike Boyd.
Several European leaders got a firsthand look at the crash site.
CCTV’s Kate Parkinson filed this report from Seyne Les Alpes, in the south of France.
Several European leaders got a firsthand look at the crash siteCCTV's Kate Parkinson filed this report from Seyne Les Alpes, in the south of France.
- Over the past few days this remote mountain village in the French Alps has been completely transformed – it’s now the staging post for a grueling recovery operation, and the focus of international media attention as the world waits to find out why Flight 9525 crashed, killing all on board.
- As the news came through that French officials believe the co-pilot deliberately crashed the plane while passengers shrieked in terror and the pilot pounded desperately on the cockpit door… the victims’ families approached the crash site with great dignity and stoicism – united in their grief and shock.
72 German victims, 18 were from Haltern high school
The airline company Germanwings says 72 German citizens were on board the flight that crashed in the French Alps on Tuesday. The budget carrier is still cancelling flights as grief-stricken staff refuse to fly. Flight 9525 plunged from the sky just after reaching cruising altitude, killing all 150 people on board-18 of them from one German town.
CCTV’s Guy Henderson filed this report from Haltern am See.
72 German victims, 18 were from Haltern high schoolThe airline company Germanwings says 72 German citizens were on board the flight that crashed in the French Alps on Tuesday. The budget carrier is still cancelling flights as grief-stricken staff refuse to fly. Flight 9525 plunged from the sky just after reaching cruising altitude, killing all 150 people on board-18 of them from one German town.
Germanwings has said that 35 of the passengers were from Spain
The Spanish government held an emergency cabinet meeting on Thursday in response to the Germanwings crash. Meanwhile victims’ relatives begin what will almost certainly be one of the agonizing journeys of their lives.
CCTV’s Jack Barton filed this report from Barcelona.
Germanwings had said that 35 of the passengers were from SpainThe Spanish government held an emergency cabinet meeting on Thursday in response to the Germanwings crash. Meanwhile victims' relatives begin what will almost certainly be one of the agonizing journeys of their lives. CCTV's Jack Barton filed this report from Barcelona.
Aviation expert Brian Foley on Alps crash
For more on crash in the French Alps, CCTV America interviewed Brian Foley an aviation expert more than 30 years of experience in the industry.
Aviation expert Brian Foley on Alps crashFor more on crash in the French Alps, CCTV America interviewed Jeffrey Baumgarten an aviation expert and commercial pilot with more than 20 years of experience in the industry.