What We Know About the Germanwings Flight and Its Pilot, Andreas Lubitz
On Tuesday, Germanwings Flight 9525 crashed into the French Alps under mysterious circumstances, killing all 150 people on board. Two days later, French prosecutors announced that the plane had been "intentionally destroyed" by its co-pilot. Audio from the cockpit captured the sounds of passengers' screams just before the moment of impact, suggesting, perhaps, that they were unaware of their imminent collision until the final seconds.
Here's what was know about the flight, its passengers and crew, and the man who deliberately crashed it into a mountain.
Tuesday morning, a Dusseldorf-bound Germanwings flight disappeared over the French Alps, 40 minutes after taking off from Barcelona. Authorities later determined that, shortly after reaching its cruising altitude, the aircraft descended rapidly for eight minutes before crashing into a remote area. The plane's wreckage—including a damaged black box—was discovered later that day. There were no survivors.
The plane's cockpit voice recorder.
By Wednesday night, French investigators had determined that the flight's co-pilot, Andreas Lubitz, had locked the captain out of the cockpit just after the plane hit cruising altitude. Lubitz then allegedly disabled the flight's autopilot and began an eight-minute long descent into the French Alps. Brice Robin, the French prosecutor, said the captain tried multiple times to reenter the cockpit. Investigators heard "violent" knocking on the black box's recording as the captain rapped on the door several times "without response," before eventually attempting to break it down. Just before the plane crashed, Robin said, passengers began screaming. "I think the victims realized just at the last moment," he stated.
The Co-pilot: Andreas Lubitz
The 27-year-old pilot was a German citizen who lived with his parents in Montabaur, according to the AFP. He also reportedly kept a flat in Duesseldorf, the city to which Flight 9525 was traveling when it crashed.
Lubitz started flying in his teens, when he obtained a glider pilot's license and joined a gliders club in Montabaur, according to Peter Ruecker, a member of the club. Ruecker told CBS News that Lubitz began training as Lufthansa pilot in 2008, shortly after graduating from a college prep school. He was officially hired as a pilot by Germanwings in September 2013, after five years of training, and had 630 hours of flight experience at the time of the crash.
"He was happy he had the job with Germanwings and he was doing well," Ruecker said. "He gave off a good feeling."
Lubitz was a "completely normal guy," according to Klaus Radke, another member of the gliders club. "I got to know him, or I should say reacquainted with him, as a very nice, fun and polite young man," Radke told Reuters.
Lubitz spent time training in the United States, according to CBS News. For four months in 2010, he reportedly trained at a flight school in Arizona; he was last in the U.S. in fall 2014, on a crew visa.
He was also apparently an avid runner who competed in local races and had completed a half-marathon. Reuters reports that Lubitz expressed an interest pop music and night-clubs on his Facebook page.
At a press conference Thursday, Lufthansa CEO Carsten Spohr said Lubitz had undergone rigorous psychological and aviation reviews since he began training with the company in 2008.
"He was 100 percent fit to fly. There was no particular thing to note or to watch out for," Spohr said. "We choose our staff very strictly. The choice of staff is very strict - we not only take into account their technical knowledge but also the psychological aspect of our staff."
Spohr also said Lubitz's training was briefly interrupted for an unspecified reason but was later completed.
"The co-pilot qualified as a pilot in 2008. He first worked as a steward and then became a first officer [co-pilot] in 2013," he said. "He took a break in his training six years ago. Then he did the tests again. And he was deemed fit to fly."
Spohr and German officials said there's no apparent link to terrorism, though the investigation remains on-going. When asked if Lubitz had committed suicide, Spohr said: "I am not a legal expert. But when one person is responsible for 150 lives, it is more than suicide."
The Associated Press reports that the local government in Duesseldorf ran a security check on Lubitz in late January and found nothing unusual.
The captain's name has not been released yet, but German media outlets have identified him as Patrick S., a father of two. He'd reportedly logged more than 6,000 hours of flight experience over his 10 year career with Lufthansa, Germanwings, and Condor airlines.
The Telegraph shared a portion of an interview with one of his former colleagues, originally posted on a French website called Europe1:
"He was one of the best," the report quotes a retired Lufthansa pilot identified only as Dieter.
"He was someone very reliable, he was one of the best pilots we had," he said. "I am 100 per cent sure they did the best they could. That's what I think because I knew him very well, he was one of the best, he had a lot of experience, he had more than 6,000 flight hours behind him."
The Other Victims
Among the dead were 16 teenagers and two teachers from a German high school who had just completed a week-long exchange program in Spain. Two German opera singers also died in the crash, as did a pair of newlyweds who'd just married on Saturday. Three Americans—Yvonne Selke, 58, and her daughter, Emily Selke, 22 (pictured above); the third victim was identified by the State Department as Robert Oliver—were on board, as were citizens from Argentina, Morocco, Spain, Germany, Australia, Britain, Iran, Colombia, Kazakhstan, the Netherlands, Israel, and Japan.
Marina Bandres Lopez-Belio, film editor, based in Manchester killed in Alps plane crash along with 7 mnth old son. pic.twitter.com/OjsKFURfvJ
— North West Tonight (@BBCNWT) March 25, 2015
Two Australians killed in Germanwings flight named as Carol Friday and her son Greig http://t.co/dSzy3pUCet pic.twitter.com/THtkc7D5Yo
— ABC News (@abcnews) March 25, 2015
Los colombianos que fallecieron en la tragedia de #Germanwings http://t.co/8rKCX1MaTn pic.twitter.com/zXPAvRlouj— LA Fm (@noticierodelafm) March 25, 2015
#BREAKING Confirmed: 2 Iranian nationals is among 148 killed in German plane crash pic.twitter.com/Q6PtCRGcj6
— Tasnim News Agency (@Tasnimnews_EN) March 25, 2015
Investigators and rescue crews will continue to sort through the site for evidence and to recover bodies, a process that could take weeks because the severity of the crash and its remote location
Images via AP, GIF via Telegraph. Contact the author at email@example.com.