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Police search co-pilot's home in Germany

AFP · 26 Mar 2015, 17:12

Published: 26 Mar 2015 17:14 GMT+01:00
Updated: 26 Mar 2015 17:12 GMT+01:00

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  • Co-pilot named as 28-year-old German Andreas Lubitz
  • Captain was deliberately locked out of cockpit
  • Co-pilot deliberately initiated descent
  • Co-pilot seemed to "want to destroy the plane"
  • Lufthansa insists incident was 'one-time, tragic' occurrence
17:46 - We're closing our live feed for today. Join us again in the morning for more updates.
The Local wrote up an analysis of what we know so far about the co-pilot who reportedly crashed the plane: What we know about the Germanwings co-pilot.
Read about the final minutes of the plane here: Final minutes of Germanwings flight
The Local also talked to a pilot with 44 years of experience about the measures that may be taken to prevent a similar tragedy, and took a look at how often suicides occur on passenger flights: Can airlines prevent pilot mass murder-suicide?
17:42 - No quick changes
Lufthansa pilots' union Vereinigung Cockpit says it's "much too premature" to take any action based on the co-pilot's suicide.
17:10 - Can airlines prevent pilot mass murder-suicide? 
We talk to a pilot with 44 years of experience about the measures that may be taken to prevent a similar tragedy, and take a look at how often suicides occur on passenger flights. 
17:05 - The final minutes in the cockpit
Here's a look at exactly what has been revealed by the black box from the last minutes of the Germanwings flight. 
For the eight minutes after he began the descent, Lubitz was apparently calm and silent, breathing normally and showing no sign of panic.
"He does not say a single word. Total silence," the prosecutor Brice Robin said.
The interior of an Airbus A320. Photo: Daniel Mennerich/Flickr
17:00 - Foreign Ministry ups German death toll
DPA reported that the German Foreign Ministry now says 75 Germans were killed in the crash, up from 72.
16:45 - Police are searching co-pilot's house
Police are searching through both residences of Lubitz, according to DPA. Lubitz reportedly lived with his parents in Montabaur in Rhineland-Palatinate as well as in Düsseldorf, where the plane was heading. 
Police are also searching the homes of passengers and crew who were killed, for DNA verification.
French newspaper Le Parisien also reported that Lubitz's parents are being interviewed by police.
16:35 - Merkel says co-pilot's actions were 'unimaginable'
"We in Germany and in many other countries have been in shock for two days," said German Chancellor Angela Merkel at a press conference. "I am struck by this news just like most other people. Something like this is unimaginable."
"We are faced with a mystery," she said, promising that "every aspect" of the plane crash will be investigated. "I promise everyone and especially those who lost their loved ones to do everything conceivable."
16:25 - UK Europe Minister signs book of condolences
16:00 - German chancellor to give statement
German Chancellor Angela Merkel is expected to hold a press conference at 4:30pm on Thursday.
15:50 - Norwegian airline says it will require two people in cockpit
Low-cost carrier Norwegian Air Shuttle said it would require two people in the cockpit at all times for safety reasons.
"When one person leaves the cockpit, two people will now have to be there," Norwegian's flight operations director Thomas Hesthammer said, after French officials said the co-pilot of the doomed Germanwings flight that crashed Tuesday appeared to have locked the pilot out of the cockpit and deliberately crashed the plane.
15:45 - Mother of Lubitz's classmate says he had suffered from 'burnout or depression'
German newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung has spoken with the mother of an ex-classmate of Lubitz. The woman said that Lubitz had confided in her daughter a few years ago that he had taken a break from his training. "He apparently was suffering from burnout or depression," said the woman.
The daughter last saw him before Christmas, when he had seemed totally normal. "I can only imagine the whole thing was a knee-jerk reaction. It can't have been planned, although it was actually like a killing spree," the woman added.
15:30 - Schoolchildren's headmaster expresses shock
"It's much, much worse than we thought. It makes us furious, helpless and stunned," said Ulrich Wessel, headmaster at the Joseph-König Gymnasium in Haltern.
15:20 - Lufthansa CEO explains how the cockpit door works
CEO Carsten Spohr explained during a press conference that when a pilot leaves the cockpit, they can ring a bell to get back in. The other pilot inside the cockpit then has a camera to see who is outside and may let them in. If the pilot inside does not open the door - for example, if they are unconscious - the pilot outside may enter a code to open the door. Flight attendants also know the code.
However, there is a switch inside the cockpit to block entry using this code for up to five minutes. 
Several American journalists asked why it wasn't standard practice for a second person to enter the cockpit when one of the pilots left.
Spohr responded that that was a legal regulation in the US, but not in the European Union or internally at Lufthansa. He couldn't immediately say whether that might change, but the company will be in close co-operation with the authorities and other airlines in future to discuss it.
A Spanish woman opened up to Catalan daily La Vanguardía about how her last minute decision to stay on in Brazil for a few more days saved her from the doomed flight.
15:00 - Lufthansa CEO says this is 'something other than suicide'
"When a person takes 149 other people to death, then this is for me something other than 'suicide'," said Carsten Spohr of Lufthansa to a reporter who asked whether they had determined that the cause was suicide. He also echoed the interior minister's statements that there was no evidence of terrorism.
Spohr explained that the companies will be working with experts to review their procedures and policies to decide whether they should change anything. He maintained that the companies perform psychological tests before selecting someone for pilot training, though he said they do not repeat psychological tests once someone becomes a pilot.
14:45 - Lufthansa speaker tries to calm fears about flight security
"Flying is the most secure form of transport and it is always becoming more secure," said Carsten Spohr of Lufthansa at a press conference.
Story continues below…
14:30 - Lufthansa and Germanwings 'stunned' by the news
Carsten Spohr of Lufthansa confirmed that the captain left the cabin and the co-pilot blocked his return.
"We are stunned by the news that the aircraft was crashed on purpose," Spohr said. "This is our worst nightmare."
"It's part of our DNA at Lufthansa. We don't just seek out intelligence, but psychological suitability," he added, saying that Lubitz had passed all the required tests. "We trust all of our pilots. They are and remain the best in the world... For me this is a one-time tragic occurrence."
Spohr mentioned that Lubitz had taken a break from his training - due to medical reasons Spohr said he still could not reveal - but insisted that such a break would be followed by more tests and medical exams.
Germany's interior minister Thomas de Maiziere said on Thursday there was no indication the co-pilot who French authorities say apparently deliberately crashed a Germanwings plane into the French Alps had a terrorist background.
De Maiziere told reporters that based on the information known so far about the co-pilot there was no indication of "a terrorist background", echoing comments by French officials.
14:28 - The co-pilot wasn't 'crazy'
Someone who knew Lubitz tells a German n-tv reporter that "he was young, reserved, not like some crazy guys that you sometimes get in flying."
14:27 - Spanish king and PM meet
The tweet below from Spain's palace shows King Felipe meeting with Prime Minister Rajoy to discuss developments. 
14:20 - German Transport minister 'shaken'
German Transport Minister Alexander Dobrindt said at a press conference that he was "shaken" by the news that pilot Lubitz intended to crash the plane.
The latest developments are utterly devastating
14:18 - Lufthansa tweets statement
"We are shaken by the upsetting statements of the French authorities. Our thoughts and prayers continue to be with the families and friends of the victims." 
It added that it would hold a press conference at 2.30pm (German time).

14:09 - Police stationed outside house of co-pilot 

According to reports in Germany police have been stationed outside the house of co-pilot Andreas Lubitz in Montabaur, in Rhineland region of western Germany.

His neighbours, who are naturally being inundated with calls from journalists are so far declining to talk about him. 

14:01 - A profile on co-pilot Andreas Lubitz

Details continue to emerge about the 28-year-old pilot. Here is a profile of the man, who had 630 hours of experience under his belt and who was described by a friend as "rather quiet" but friendly.

(Photo: Twitter)

13:56 - Spanish PM shocked by findings

That press conference from the prosecutor in Marseille has shocked everyone who has been following the news of the crash. Spanish PM Mariano Rajoy has said he is "deeply shocked" by the findings of the investigation.

13:42 - Pilot deliberately crashed the plane

Here's the latest write through from AFP

The co-pilot "deliberately" initiated the descent of the Germanwings flight that crashed into the French Alps and refused to open the door to the pilot who was outside the cockpit, the lead investigator said on Thursday.

The co-pilot, named as 28-year-old Andreas Lubitz, appeared to "show a desire to want to destroy" the plane, prosecutor Brice Robin told reporters.

"The co-pilot was alone at the controls," said Robin, presenting information gathered from the "black box" recorder that records sounds and conversations from the cockpit.

"He ... refused to open the door of the cockpit to the pilot and deliberately began the descent of the plane."

Lubitz was identified as a German citizen who was not known to have any links to terrorism or extremists, Robin said, adding that German authorities were expected to provide additional information on his background and private life later Thursday or Friday.

The co-pilot turned the "flight monitoring system" button to initiate the plane's descent and spoke "not a single word" during the last 10 minutes before the plane crashed.

The passengers were unaware of their imminent demise "until very last moment" and "died instantly", the prosecutor said.

He said screams could be heard on the recording only in the final seconds.

The recording showed that the pilot and co-pilot talked normally and "courteously" for the first 20 minutes of the flight after it took off from Barcelona.

"Then we hear the pilot ask the co-pilot to take the controls and a seat being pulled back and a door closing. We can assume he left to answer nature's call," said Robin.

"The co-pilot is left alone at the controls. We hear several calls from the pilot asking for entry into the cockpit. There is no response from the co-pilot."

Robin said there were "normal" breathing sounds from Lubitz throughout the rest of the flight that indicated he was conscious.

13:30 - Main points from press conference

The quest to find out what happened to the doomed Germanwings flight that crashed into the Alps has taken a dramatic twist after a French prosecutor revealed that the co-pilot purposefully locked the pilot out of the cockpit and initiated a descent of the plane.

After appearing to rule out a terrorist attack the likely scenario now is that the co-pilot, named Andreas Lubitz, from Germany, deliberately crashed the plane into the Alps.

FROM AFP: The co-pilot "voluntarily" initiated the descent of the Germanwings flight that crashed into the French Alps and refused to open the door to the pilot who was outside the cockpit, the lead investigator said on Thursday

"The co-pilot is alone at the controls," said prosecutor Brice Robin, recounting information gathered from the "black box" recorder. "He voluntarily refused to open the door of the cockpit to the pilot and voluntarily began the descent of the plane."

13:26 - Prosecutor says "passengers died instantly"

Brice Robin is being inundated with questions from the international media, often repeated questions around the same topic.  He has stressed the passengers would have died instantly and that no indication that this was a terrorist attack.

13:13 - Co-pilot was 28 years old

French prosecutor revealing few more details about the co-pilot, but he has confirmed he as a German national named Andreas Lubitz, 28 years old. He had no terrorist profile. Other reports claim he joined Germanwings in 2013 and had a few hundred hours flying time under his belt.

13:10 - Passengers knew nothing until final moments

Germanwings victims were unaware of crash 'until very last moment' says French prosecutor Brice Robin.

13:08 - No terrorist profile

Co-pilot, named as Andreas Lubitz, did not have a terrorist profile, the prosecutor confirms.

13:05 - Prosecutor says no panic in cockpit

Brice Robin says there was no sense of panic in the cockpit. "The co-pilot was breathing normally". 

13:03 - Co-pilot purposefully brought plane down

The co-pilot "voluntarily" initiated the descent of the Germanwings flight that crashed into the French Alps and refused to open the door to the pilot who was outside the cockpit, the lead investigator said on Thursday.

"The co-pilot is alone at the controls," said prosecutor Brice Robin, recounting information gathered from the "black box" recorder. "He voluntarily refused to open the door of the cockpit to the pilot and voluntarily began the descent of the plane."

13:02 - Co-pilot named as Andreas Lubitz, a German national

13:01 - Prosecutor Brice Robin says pilot was German

12:50  - Co-pilot did not speak one word from the cockpit

French prosecutor says the co-pilot did not utter one word whilst the plane descended towards the Alps. He could heard breathing, but he did not speak one word until the plane crashed.

12:45 - Co-pilot locked pilot out of cockpit

The prosecutor said the co-pilot was alone inside the cockpit and refused to allow the captain back in. 

"I think he refused to open the door and turned the button to bring down the plane. It was a purposeful action on the part of the co-pilot. He is not known as a terrorist. Absolutely not.


One of the two pilots on a doomed Germanwings flight was locked out of the cockpit before the plane crashed in the French Alps, killing 150 people, a source close to the investigation told AFP Thursday, backing up an earlier report in the New York Times.

French newspaper Le Monde revealed later on Thursday that it was the captain, not the co-pilot, who was locked outside. The co-pilot had 630 hours of experience under his belt, compared to the ten years of experience for the pilot.

Cockpit recordings recovered from the crash site indicated one of the seats was pushed back and the door opened and closed, followed by the sound of knocking, said the source, adding "there was no more conversation from that point until the crash".

The source said an alarm indicating the proximity of the ground could be heard before the impact.

That followed an earlier report in the New York Times, who also quoted a source close to the investigation who had also heard the recordings.

According to the New York Times one of the pilots was left trying to smash the door down but still failed to get back in, a report said on Wednesday.

The paper cited a senior military official involved in the investigation who had heard the cockpit voice recorder.

The official was quoted as saying that there was a "very smooth, very cool" conversation between the two pilots during the early part of the doomed flight from Barcelona to Dusseldorf on Tuesday.

Then the audio indicated that one of the pilots left the cockpit and could not re-enter, the investigator said.

"The guy outside is knocking lightly on the door and there is no answer," the investigator told the newspaper. "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."

The official, who requested anonymity because the investigation is continuing, told The New York Times: "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."

For their part Germanwings have not confirmed the reports based on information from sources. The prosecutor in Marseille, who is in charge of the case, is to give a press conference at around midday local time on Thursday.

Reacting to the news that one of the pilots was locked out of the cockpit, French aviation safety expert Christophe Naudin told The Local that it remains unclear whether someone else may have gained entry to the cockpit.

"We don't know whether the pilot left and was locked out or someone else entered the cockpit and locked him out," he said.

"What's troubling is that apparently we don't hear voices anymore once the door is locked."

Naudin said that once the cockpit door is locked it is impossible to gain access, even with the code.

Reinforced cockpit doors were installed on all planes at the behest of the US in the aftermath of 9/11.

"This case could show that having reinforced doors does not necessarily increase security and safety on airplanes," Naudin said.

The recording showed the pilots speaking normally and in German at the start of Flight 4U9525 early Tuesday. The source could not say if it was the captain or the first officer who had left the cockpit.

The cockpit voice recorder was found late Tuesday, several hours after the crash of the budget flight from Barcelona to Dusseldorf, and the data analysed Wednesday afternoon.

The Airbus A320 suddenly began a fatal eight-minute descent shortly after reaching cruising altitude.

No distress signal was sent and the crew failed to respond to desperate attempts at contact from ground control.

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