Alps disaster pilot Andreas Lubitz 'rehearsed' crash on previous flight
The co-pilot of Germanwings Flight 9525 appeared to have rehearsed a controlled descent on his flight into Barcelona just two hours before he intentionally crashed the A320 jet into a mountainside on the return flight to Dusseldorf, air accident investigators have revealed.
Authorities are still puzzling over why Andreas Lubitz, who had suffered from suicidal tendencies and depression in the past, sent the Barcelona to Dusseldorf flight straight into the French Alps on March 24, killing all 150 people on board.
This latest development about an earlier flight appears to support the assumption that the crash was not only deliberate but also premeditated, and raises questions about all of the flights where Lubitz was in the cockpit.
Lubitz seemed to be toying with the plane's settings on the earlier March 24 flight from Dusseldorf to Barcelona, programming it for sharp descent multiple times in a four-and-a-half minute period while the pilot was out of the cockpit before resetting the controls, France's BEA investigation agency said in an interim report on the crash.
Prosecutors have said that Lubitz intentionally locked the pilot out of the cockpit and crashed the plane on its return flight to Dusseldorf.
The 30-page report said the same crew was aboard both flights - and the pilot appeared to have left the cockpit during the earlier flight as well.
On the first flight into Barcelona, shortly after the pilot left, the "selected altitude" of the flight changed repeatedly, including several times being set as low as 100ft above the ground. The report says Lubitz also put the engines on idle, which gives the plane the ability to quickly descend.
It would be highly unusual for a pilot to repeatedly set a plane for such a low altitude. However, the report says that Lubitz did so while he was being asked by air traffic controllers to bring the plane down gradually from 35,000ft to 21,000ft for its descent to Barcelona. A chart released by the BEA showed the plane did not actually descend sharply while Lubitz was repeatedly adjusting the settings, so the passengers and crew may not have noticed any change. Aviation experts said the findings were clearly unusual.
French agency BEA said Germanwings crash investigators are also looking at security "compromises" after the September 11 attacks, notably on cockpit door lock systems to protect pilots from terrorists. Since the disaster, several airlines have imposed rules requiring two people in the cockpit at all times. French prosecutors are conducting a separate criminal investigation.