On 24th March 2015 at 9am GMT, Germanwings flight 4U 9525, carrying 150 people, took off from Barcelona Airport, bound for Düsseldorf. It would never make it, the aircraft crashed in the Alps. Evidence suggests that the airliner was deliberately brought down by its co pilot, a man named Andreas Lubitz.
The planes cockpit voice recorder gives a glimpse into the aircrafts final hour in the air. At 9:30am the plane made its final contact with air traffic control, which was a routine message regarding permission to continue on its flight path. Shortly afterwards, the captain told the co-pilot he was exiting the cockpit and asked him to take over radio communications. The cockpit door is then heard opening and closing on the recording.
Seconds later, shortly before 09:31, the selected altitude was changed from 38,000 ft to 100 ft and the plane began to descend. At 09:33, the plane’s speed was increased. Air traffic control contacted the co-pilot, and continued to do so over the coming minutes but received no answer.
A buzzer requesting access to the cockpit sounded at 09:34. Knocking and muffled voices asking for the door to be opened can be heard until the end of the recording.
At 09:39, “noises similar to violent blows on the cockpit door were recorded on five occasions” over the course of a minute. The flight crew of another plane also tried to make contact with the cockpit by radio around this time. In the next minute, 93 seconds before impact, “low amplitude inputs” on the co-pilot’s flight controls were recorded. But the level of movement was too low to disengage the autopilot, so the input made no change to the flight path.
At 09:40: 41 the “Terrain, Terrain, Pull Up, Pull up” warning was triggered and it continues until the end of the recording at 09:41:06.
During the very last moment of the recording passengers can be heard screaming. It is believed they were unaware of the unfolding events up until this point. The plane hit the mountain at 700km/h (430mph) an hour. Meaning death to all on board was instant.
But who was Andreas Lubitz?
Lsubitz lived at his parents’ home in Montabaur, a town near Frankfurt of about 12,500 people.
He was about 14 when he joined the LSC Westerwald glider club in Montabaur, where he learned to fly in a sleek white ASK-21 two-seater and went on to obtain his full licence, according to club chairman Klaus Radke. In 2007, he graduated from high school and was accepted as a Lufthansa trainee the following year, enrolling at the company’s training school in Bremen.Lubitz had a break in training about six years ago, lasting several months, according to Lufthansa CEO Carsten Spohr. Mr Spohr refused to disclose the reason for this gap but said his suitability had been reassessed and Lubitz had resumed his studies. But the final report of the investigation into the crash finds the interruption was caused by medical problems.
He suffered a serious depressive episode during his treatment and went on to receive treatment for a year and a half. During that time, he considered suicide but was eventually declared healthy.
It was recommended by a doctor that he needed special regular medical inspection and his medical certificates were valid for only one year at a time. A relevant note was added to his aviation authority file as well as to his pilot’s licence.
In 2013 he joined Lufthansa’s low budget airline, Germanwings. He initially worked as a flight attendant before starting his role as co-pilot.
Friends and neighbours described him as a “quiet” but “fun” character, who enjoyed his job.
In the aftermath of the disaster however, investigators established a very different side to his character. Police found torn-up sick notes in his homes, including one covering the day of the crash. Despite assertions from friends that he was in good spirits, the final report on the crash by French investigators found he had suffered from a psychiatric condition and had been taking medication before the crash. Fearing he was losing his vision, he had hidden the evidence from his employer.
Lufthansa said Lubitz had flown a total of 630 hours before the fatal crash.
He underwent a regular security check on 27 January and nothing untoward was found. Previous security checks in 2008 and 2010 also showed no issues. “He was 100% fit to fly without any restrictions or conditions,” Mr Spohr said. Yet the crash investigation found differently. He had battled with vision problems and insomnia for several months, it said, caused by a psychiatric disorder rather than anything physical. He was taking medication for both psychiatric issues and insomnia, and had been given doctor’s notes excusing him from work. But he never showed them to the airline. On the day of the accident, the pilot was still suffering from a psychiatric disorder, which was possibly a psychotic depressive episode and was taking psychotropic medication, the report found.
This made him unfit to fly.
But the report found he had hidden the evidence, and neither the airline nor his colleagues could have known about his circumstances. Those who knew Lubitz have described him as an affable young man, who gave absolutely no indications he was harbouring any harmful intent.
A German criminal investigation into the crash concluded in January that Lubitz bore sole responsibility for crashing the jet.
Guenther Lubitz, the killer’s father, rejected the findings as “false”, arguing that they were not thorough enough.