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Flight 9525: Air crash 'a deliberate act' by Germanwings co-pilot

By John Lichfield

A deliberate act of suicide - and mass murder - by a young German co-pilot without known terrorist links is believed to have caused the Germanwings disaster in the French Alps, which killed 150 people.

Air travellers were last night confronted with the most terrifying possible explanation for the crash on Tuesday. Cockpit sound recordings reveal that Andreas Lubitz (28) deliberately put the Airbus A320 into a gentle 11-minute dive to destruction after locking his captain out of the cockpit. He ignored screaming passengers and hammering on the secure cockpit door by crew members as he steered the Barcelona-Dusseldorf flight into a mountainside 100 miles north of Nice at 500mph.

Carsten Spohr, chief executive of Lufthansa, Germanwings' parent company, said it was "beyond our worst nightmares". He said Mr Lubitz's previous performance had been "without any criticism".

The revelations pose awkward questions about the psychological screening of airline pilots and the rigidity of anti-terrorist measures introduced after the attacks on the World Trade Center which allowed Lubitz to lock his more senior and experienced colleague out of the cockpit.

French investigators were last night questioning Lubitz's parents. They had travelled to France with other victims' relatives before it emerged that their son was suspected of destroying the plane.

A sound recording by a 'black box' recovered at the crash site revealed that one pilot had been locked out of the cockpit while Flight 9525 made its dive of 10 minutes and 47 seconds onto a mountain ridge in the Alpes de Hautes Provence.

"Alone in the cockpit, the co-pilot manipulated the buttons of the flight monitoring system to make the aircraft descend," Marseille public prosecutor, Brice Robin said. "This action can only have been voluntary."

The cockpit voice recorder revealed Lubitz was breathing normally to the end, proving that he had not suffered sudden illness.

Just before the plane crashed, the microphones picked up the sound of crew members trying to batter down the cockpit door and of passengers screaming. The 144 passengers were probably unaware of their terrible fate until a few seconds before the crash, the prosecutor said. All died instantly.

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