In Brief

Andreas Lubitz: Germanwings pilot tore up sick note for day of crash

German prosecutors say 27-year-old pilot who crashed flight 4U 9525 in French Alps hid illness from the airline

Andreas Lubitz had been issued with a sick note for the day he flew a Germanwings plane carrying 150 people into a French mountainside, it emerged today, but he had destroyed it and hidden details of his illness from the airline.

Police searching his two homes in Germany found a series of torn-up documents which described "an existing illness and appropriate medical treatment", prosecutors said. They gave no details of the illness, although it has been widely reported that Lubitz had previously suffered from depression.

"Prosecutors said there was no evidence of a political or religious motive to his actions, and no suicide note was found," the BBC reports.

Three days after the crash, a picture is emerging of the 27-year-old co-pilot who was at the controls when Germanwings flight 4U 9525 plunged into the French Alps.

According to reports, Lubitz was a keen runner with an interest in pop music who lived part-time with his parents. In 2008 he had been forced to postpone part of his training as a pilot due to a period of "mental health problems".

In a sombre press conference, French prosecutors announced yesterday that data taken from one of the plane's black box flight recorders appeared to indicate that Lubitz had deliberately guided the plane into the ground after locking his colleague out of the cockpit.

Overnight, German police seized possessions from Lubitz's two addresses in search of possible motives for the young pilot's actions. A number of items were removed from Lubitz's flat in Dusseldorf, as well as the house he shares with his parents in Montabaur, including boxes and a number of computers.

Lubitz is said to have split his time between two addresses, the Dusseldorf flat, which may have been shared with another person, and his parents' home in Montabaur.

According to reports, Lubitz's father is a businessman and his mother was an organist at a Protestant church near the centre of Montabaur and worked as a piano teacher.

Lubitz began his flying career as a youth at the Westerwald flying club in the Rhineland northeast of Koblenz, the New York Times reports. He later did part of his training in the US at the Airline Training Center Arizona in Goodyear, a suburb west of Phoenix. All Lufthansa pilots have trained at the facility for more than 40 years, according to the centre's website.

At a press conference yesterday, Marseille prosecutor Brice Robin gave a harrowing account of the Germanwings plane's last moments.

He said Lubitz had locked his captain out of the cockpit when he left the flight deck and then put the plane into a descent, an act that can only be done deliberately.

"The intention was to destroy the plane," he said. "Death was instant. The plane hit the mountain at 700kmh (430mph). I don't think that the passengers realised what was happening until the last moments because on the recording you only hear the screams in the final seconds".  

Robin added: "(Lubitz) did this for a reason which we don't know why, but we can only deduct that he destroyed this plane".

Asked whether the pilot's actions could be regarded as suicide, the prosecutor replied: "People who commit suicide usually do so alone... I don't call it a suicide."

 It emerged today that Germanwings has ordered the cancellation of an advertising campaign in which it used the slogan "Get ready to be surprised". The posters had appeared across the London Underground network, The Independent reports. Digital versions of the advert were switched off within an hour of the airline's request, according to Transport for London, and paper versions are being covered or removed today. In the aftermath of the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, the airline was criticised for sending out a promotional tweet which read: "Want to go somewhere, but don't know where? Our Year-End Specials might just help! #keepflying"

Germanwings plane crash: did pilot bring down flight 4U 9525 deliberately?

26 March

French prosecutors confirm flight 4U 9525 was brought down deliberately

Analysis has begun of the black-box flight recorder found at the site in the French Alps where Germanwings flight 4U 9525 crashed on Tuesday, raising hopes that the cause of the plane crash will soon become clear.

Passenger planes have two black boxes, one to track in-flight data and another to record audio from the flight deck. The Germanwings plane's voice recorder has been found, but no information about its contents has yet been officially revealed.

However, an unnamed French official told the New York Times that the audio appears to reveal that one of the pilots was locked out of the cockpit before the plane began its steady descent.

In the absence of any official analysis from the investigative team, a number of theories have been offered for what might have caused the crash. Many others have been instantly discounted. 

A deliberate act 

The senior French military official who spoke to the New York Times said that evidence retrieved from the plane's voice recorder indicated that when the plane took off, there was a "very smooth, very cool" conversation between the two pilots. Later in the flight, however, the audio indicates that one of the pilots left the cockpit and then couldn't get back in.

"The guy outside is knocking lightly on the door, and there is no answer," the investigator said. "And then he hits the door stronger, and no answer. There is never an answer. You can hear he is trying to smash the door down."

He added: "We don't know yet the reason why one of the guys went out, but what is sure is that at the very end of the flight, the other pilot is alone and does not open the door."

On theory put forward suggests that a catastrophic event took place in the cockpit, such as a fire or a drop in cabin pressure. However, another senior French official, told the New York Times that the lack of communication was "disturbing" and said that he felt it was now impossible to rule out the possibility that the crash was deliberate.

"I don't like it," said the official. "To me, it seems very weird: this very long descent at normal speed without any communications, though the weather was absolutely clear."

Terrorism

The White House has said there is no evidence the crash was the result of a terror attack, the BBC reports. If an onboard bomb had caused an explosion at high altitude, the plane's debris would have been spread over a large area, as it was with the Lockerbie disaster, the Daily Mail notes. Early searches suggest that the wreckage of flight 4U 9525 is very localised.

Mechanical or computer failure

Richard Westcott, BBC transport correspondent, suggests the pilots, who did not send out a distress signal, might have been "coping with something so catastrophic they never had time to radio in a mayday, or turn to find the nearest runway".

While it is still too early to know exactly what happened, this could point to "both engines failing, a fuel problem or something critical breaking off the aircraft", Westcott says.

Military incident

Some military aviation experts say that an Italian military plane switched its transponder to the emergency code #7700 at 10.35, right near the site where the Germanwings plane began its descent, the Daily Mail reports. Investigators should be able to work out whether the incident was "a coincidence or possibly had some relevance to the passenger jet's demise", the publication says. 

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