A French prosecutor says a 28-year-old co-pilot with murderous intentions deliberately crashed a plane into a mountainside in the French Alps on Tuesday, killing 150 souls on board.
Andreas Lubitz, a German citizen, intentionally flew the plane into a mountainside at over 400 mph. The plane disintegrated on impact, but crash investigators recovered the cockpit voice recorder from the debris.
During a press conference Thursday Marseille Prosecutor Brice Robin said Lubitz did not have any obvious links to terrorism.
Lubitz had only been with the airline for 18 months and he only had 600 hours of flight time.
Robin said the caption left the cockpit for a bathroom break once the plane reached cruising altitude of 38,000 feet. From the moment he left, the suicidal co-pilot flipped a toggle switch that secured the cockpit door from the inside, then he turned a knob that put the plane into a controlled descent.
Upon his return, the captain was unable to re-enter the cockpit by using a code on a keypad in the cabin.
Robin said the terrified passengers can be heard screaming on the cockpit recording as it dawned on them that the captain was attempting to break the cockpit door down.
All cockpit door panels were reinforced after September 11. But pilots inside the cockpit can throw a toggle switch to lock anyone out — including other pilots.
“If he had been able to open this door, the captain would have done it,” Robin said.
Robin said the co-pilot “didn’t say a word” during the descent, and he never sent a distress signal.
The co-pilot’s breathing was normal on the recording, an indication that Lubitz was not incapacitated.
Airline policy in the United States is to never leave pilots alone at the controls. A flight attendant must sit in for a pilot who goes on a bathroom break. But a terrorist who is determined to crash a plane can easily restrain or subdue a flight attendant.
The suicidal pilot theory explains why other Germanwings crews refused to fly other flights on Tuesday. Someone on board the plane may have called or text the airline alerting them to the final moments on the plane.
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