27-year-old Andreas Lubitz deliberately crashed the plane, killing all 150 passengers on board
A German airplane belonging to airliner Lufthansa crashed into a mountainside on the French Alps on March 24, killing the 150 people on board, including 16 schoolchildren.
The flight’s co-pilot, 27-year-old Andreas Lubitz, is believed to have purposely crashed the plane.
Transponder data shows that the flight’s autopilot had been reprogrammed to bring the plane from an altitude of 38,000 feet to 100 feet.
“We at Lufthansa are speechless that this aircraft has been deliberately crashed by the co-pilot,” said Carsten Spohr, CEO of Lufthansa. Lubitz had undergone intensive training, and was “100 per cent fit to fly without any caveats.”
Brice Robin, a prosecutor from Marseille, said that Lubitz clearly “wanted to destroy the aircraft”, citing information retrieved from the plane’s black box.
It is unclear whether the co-pilot’s actions were impulsive or planned, but he took advantage of a moment when the pilot had left the cockpit, locked the door, and began the descent, something that must be manually done.
There was “absolute silence in the cockpit” as the pilot fought to re-enter, said Robin. Passengers were heard screaming before the crash.
“We hear the pilot ask the co-pilot to take control of the plane and we hear at the same time the sound of a seat moving backwards and the sound of a door closing… At that moment, the co-pilot is controlling the plane by himself. While he is alone, the co-pilot presses the buttons of the flight monitoring system to put into action the descent of the aeroplane.”
“He operated this button for a reason we don’t know yet, but it appears that the reason was to destroy this plane.”
Since 9/11, airplane cockpits have been modified to be impenetrable from the outside, to prevent anyone from forcing their way in and gaining control of the plane, but in this instance the development proved to be deadly.
Air traffic controllers made repeated attempts to contact the aircraft upon noticing its rapid descent, but were not able to reach the co-pilot, whose motives continue to remain a mystery.
According to Robin, the co-pilot is not known to have had any links to terrorist or extremist groups.
Passengers were not fully aware of the plane’s circumstances “until the very last moment” and died instantly.
The crash has caused several airlines to pledge to change their rules so that at least two crew members are required to be in the cockpit at all times.
Relatives and friends of the victims have travelled to the region of the crash to pay their respects.
“One person can’t have the right to end the lives of hundreds of people and families,” said Esteban Rodriguez, who lost two friends in the crash.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel told reporters that Lubitz’s actions have given the tragedy a “new, simply incomprehensible dimension”.
Police have been searching Lubitz’s home in Montabaur Germany, as well as the flat he kept in Duesseldorf.