German co-pilot deliberately crashes plane

By Jessica Ganga
Nation & World Editor  

A German newspaper releases final moments of Flight 9525 (AP Photo).
A German newspaper releases final moments of Flight 9525 (AP Photo).

More information is beginning to surface about the Germanwings flight that crashed into the French Alps on Tuesday, March 24. According to CNN, the co-pilot, Andreas Lubitz, deliberately downed the plane carrying 150 onboard, including himself.

Audio from the flight has been released, allowing a timeline to be determined of how the crash occurred, according to CNN. A German newspaper, Bild, released the sequence of events on Sunday, March 29.

According to the recording, the captain of the flight, Patrick Sodenheimer, could be heard leaving the cockpit after Lubitz tells the captain he can “go any time,” allowing Lubitz to take over the wheel. Then, the plane begins to descend, setting off an alarm. Next, Sodenheimer could be heard banging on the locked cockpit door. The last sounds to be heard are people screaming in the background and a wing scraping a mountain.

Reasons why Lubitz would down the plane are unknown, but according to CNN and other news media reports, the co-pilot had mental health issues. Investigators later found a ripped-up letter in a garbage can in Lubitz’s apartment in Dusseldorf, Germany that said he wasn’t fit for his job. After spending 90 minutes in the apartment, authorities left with boxes of paper and various folders of evidence.

According to the New York Times, the police officers that searched through the apartment Thursday, March 26, found antidepressants. The Times also reported that notes were found by various doctors saying that the pilot was too ill to fly, including a note on the day of the crash.

Additionally, Lubitz sought medical treatment before the crash for vision problems that could potentially put his career at risk, but never told the airline about his vision concerns, according to the Times.

In the summer of 2014, Lubitz passed his annual pilot recertification medical examination, but the exam only tests physical health — not mental — according to CNN.

The recent finding of Lubitz’s speculated condition has sparked questions of how people should be deemed mentally fit to fly.

In the United States, the Federal Aviation Administration requires captains to have their medical certificate renewed every year if the pilot is under 40 and every six months if the pilot is over 40, but this doesn’t include psychological tests, according to NBC News.

“The system relies on pilots self-declaring, so unless a pilot is honest about an alcohol problem or a psychiatric disorder, there’s no guarantee a problem would be spotted,” said aviation psychologist Diane Damos, whose company specializes in pilot selection and screening, to NBC.

Although there is a lot of speculation surrounding the mental state of the co-pilot, Lufthansa CEO Carson Spohr said there was “no indication what could have led the co-pilot to commit this terrible act,” at a news conference.

Investigators are still trying to gather more information on the crash and Lubitz.