It has now become clear that the crash of the Germanwings Airbus last Tuesday was no accident. As it happened, the aircraft, an Airbus A320 with nearly 60,000 flight hours, had only undergone a full safety check the day before, with only a minor repair done to the front landing gear hatch .
What we do know is this; the Airbus departed at 10:01 from Barcelona airport, bound for Dusseldorf in Germany. The aircraft climbed to its cruising altitude of 38,000ft, and almost immediately began a controlled descent at a rate of 1,500 – 4,000 feet per minute that ended abruptly when the plane slammed against a 6,000 mountain in the French Alps at full speed. The aircraft was completely destroyed on impact, no survivors.
The event immediately raised questions about the manner in which the aircraft came down. It reached cruising altitude normally, and then went back down almost immediately. The plane descended for nearly eight minutes, but no distress signal was issued.
It emerged today that the flight’s captain, Patrick Sonderheimer, left the cockpit and could not get back in, as the co-pilot, 28-year-old Andreas Guenter Lubitz, locked himself in.
Lubitz was from Montabaur, a town in the district seat of the Westerwaldkreis in Rhineland-Palatinate, Germany. He was said to be happy with his job at Germanwings, and had shown no signs of anything being amiss in his life. He reportedly had a girlfriend, but few details of his personal life have yet emerged. He was described as being ‘quiet but friendly.’
Lubitz had obtained a glider pilot’s licence while in his teens, and was accepted as a Lufthansa pilot trainee after successfully passing a tough preparatory course.
The young man’s last medical was carried out in 2010, and was due to undergo another one in June this year. Lubitz had accrued 630 hours of flight time in an A320 at the time of his death.
The cockpit voice recorder revealed that Lubitz never did say a word during the last 10 minutes of the fateful flight.
All that can be heard is banging on the cockpit door as the captain desperately attempts to break in, the screams of the passengers in the seconds before impact, and Lubitz’s steady breathing as the aircraft hurtles towards the ground.