Copilot ‘wanted to destroy plane’

Written By komlim puldel on Kamis, 26 Maret 2015 | 20.01

Helicopters fly in and out of the Germanwings crash site's search base as a New York Times report suggests one pilot was locked out of cockpit. Rough Cut (no reporter narration).

  • Copilot Andreas Lubitz, 28, deliberately crashed plane
  • Lubitz waited for pilot to leave cockpit before putting plane in descent
  • Prosecutors have ruled out terrorism
  • It may take more than a week to retrieve bodies from the Alps

COCKPIT voice recordings from the German jet that crashed in the Alps revealed a pilot left the cockpit and could not get back in moments before his copilot deliberately plunged the aircraft to the ground killing all 150 on-board, the airline has stunningly confirmed.

The copilot has been identified as 28-year-old Andreas Lubitz of Montabaur, Germany.

Marseille Prosecutor Brice Robin and the French Aviation Authority Bureau d'Enquetes et d'Analyses (BEA) last night announced the retrieved black box flight recorder from the doomed Germanwings Flight 9525 revealed the dramatic descent of the Airbus A320 aircraft began shortly after one of the two pilots left the cabin.

Mr Robin could not say why the pilot left or why he could not get back in but apparently was attempting to smash the door down as it plunged from cruising height of 38,000ft to the crash moment eight minutes later.

The revelation raises the prospect for the first time that the crash of the German budget aircraft was not an accident or mechanical fault but a deliberate action by a copilot. However prosecutors say there is no indication this is an act of terrorism.

Authorities are likely to treat the crash as a mass murder investigation.

Mr Robin confirmed only one black box recorder had been found but they had 32 minutes of the one found and analysed.

CVR ... the Cockpit Voice Recorder (black box) of the Germanwings Airbus A320 that crashed in the French Alps. Picture: AFP/France's Bureau of Investigation and Analysis Source: AFP

CVR ... the Cockpit Voice Recorder (black box) of the Germanwings Airbus A320 that crashed in the French Alps. Picture: AFP/France's Bureau of Investigation and Analysis Source: AFP

In the recording, the two pilots can be heard chatting amicably, including about the eventual landing procedure, for about 20 minutes.

Then the sound of the pilot's chair being pushed back is heard as he went away to go to the toilet. The copilot was alone when the descent button was actioned at that altitude.

It was a "voluntary act". The captain is then heard knocking on the cockpit door to get back in, but his colleague was not answering. The copilot was alive though because his breathing could be heard.

Contact could also be heard from a ground air control tower but there was no response from the cockpit.

French investigators concluded the copilot had refused to open the cabin door and actioned the button for making the descent, as opposed to it being a mechanical autopilot action.

"This was a voluntary choice to destroy this plane … we ask the German authorities to ask more about the German pilot, his family and his environment," he said.

Last night's announcement came as 12 bus loads of relatives of the victims, including three buses with Spanish relatives, arrived at Le Vernet, the village closest to the crash site.

There they signed condolence books and said prayers in a small makeshift chapel attached to a resort complex. They walked across a field with a heavy gendarme escort as officials pointed out the immediate mountain behind which the wreckage of the aircraft is scattered.

Grieving ... students mourn in front of the Joseph-Koenig-Gymnasium secondary school in Haltern am See, western Germany, after 16 students died in the Germanwings plane disaster. Picture: AFP/Sascha Schuermann Source: AFP

The visit came as authorities began collecting the remains of the victims and taking them via helicopter to a makeshift base nearby for later identification. Mr Robin said the chain of identification had begun now.

Yesterday the New York Times was the first to report one of the pilots was not in command when the aircraft went down. Although the black box flight retrieved from the wreckage did not make it clear why he left and could not regain entry as the Airbus A320 aircraft steadily descended.

Relatives of the Germanwings plane crash victims leave Spain for France where they are expected to inspect the crash site. Julie Noce reports.

French aviation officials gave an extensive briefing of the latest facts yesterday about finding "usable sounds and voices" on the flight recorder but made no mention of this stunning claim.

"The guy outside is knocking lightly on the door and there is no answer," an unnamed investigator told the Times, citing the recordings. "And then he hits the door stronger and no answer. There is never an answer."

"You can hear he is trying to smash the door down," the investigator added.

Rescue mission ... rescue workers continue their search operation into a third day near the site of the Germanwings plane crash. Picture: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images Source: Getty Images

A spokesman for Lufthansa, whose budget arm Germanwings operated the flight, said the carrier was aware of the Times story, adding: "We have no information from the authorities that confirms this report and we are seeking more information. We will not take part in speculation on the causes of the crash."

Lufthansa confirmed said that since the September 11, 2001, hijacked aircraft terror attacks, cockpit doors cannot be opened from the outside. If a pilot leaves the cockpit it is standard practice a cabin crew member steps in to leave two people in the cockpit at all times.

Germanwings meanwhile said it had cancelled one flight on Wednesday and was using 11 planes from other carriers for about 40 flights after some of its crew members had refused to fly.

Almost 600 gendarmes and other police and rescue groups were yesterday involved in inspecting the site of Flight 9525 deep in the French Alps and unravelling what may have happened from the moment it took off from Barcelona to its crash about an hour later on Tuesday en route to Dusseldorf.

The development came as the leaders of Germany, France and Spain made first-hand inspections of the investigation operations at the foothills of the crash site and from the air for the first time since the aircraft inexplicably crashed on Tuesday.

It also came as authorities made the first grim retrievals of bodies from the doomed crash.

Parent company Lufthansa CEO Carsten Spohr described the crash as incomprehensible and said Lufthansa has never lost a plane during the cruise stage of flight.

"This represents the darkest hours in the 60-year history of our Lufthansa group. We are still in a state of shock," he said. That is despite confirmation a Germanwings flight crashed in 1953 less than 2km from the latest incident.

France's leader Hollande, Germany's Angela Merkel and Mariano Rajoy from Spain personally thanked search teams and met residents in the villages of Le Vernet and Seyne-les-Alpes, where the salvaging operations have been set up.

Parent company Lufthansa has also arranged for two flights to leave from Spain and Germany today to take family members of the victims of the crash to southern France.

"This will have the support of the French authorities who will be able to bring the relatives and friends of the victims to a family assistance centre near the crash site which is still locked off and will remain locked off," Mr Spohr said.

He added: "I just returned from meeting the relatives and friends of those who lost their lives yesterday and this meeting is hard to describe in words, it was very, very emotional for all of us."

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