Germanwings Co-Pilot Lubitz Rehearsed Crash on Previous Flight: BEA Report

Original post from NBC News


The Germanwings co-pilot suspected of deliberately downing his plane in the French Alps practiced entering crash settings in the aircraft’s systems on the previous flight the same day, investigators said.

A preliminary report from French investigators released Wednesday said co-pilot Andreas Lubitz set the altitude dial on the Airbus A320 to 100 feet five times while alone in the cockpit en route from Dusseldorf to Barcelona on March 24.

Cockpit voice recordings suggested that Lubitz, 27, locked the captain out of the cockpit during a bathroom break and steered Flight 4U9525 into a mountainside while returning from Barcelona to Dusseldorf on March 24. The captain can be heard on the recordings demanding to be let back in and trying to break down the door.

Lubitz had been treated for depression in the past and a search of his home revealed he had researched suicide methods on his tablet computer days before the crash. Investigators also found torn-up sick notes.

The Federal Aviation Administration awarded Lubitz a U.S. pilot license in 2010despite concerns about his mental fitness.

Records posted online show he applied in 2010 while he was employed by Lufthansa and training at a flight school in Phoenix. As part of the application, he initially submitted a medical form to the FAA asserting he had no mental disorders. He then resubmitted the form acknowledging he had been treated for severe depression from 2008 to 2009.

Image: Germanwings Flight 4U9525 Co-pilot Andreas Lubitz GETTY IMAGES
Andreas Lubitz participates in the Frankfurt City Half-Marathon in March 2010. Photo by Getty Images.


– Alastair Jamieson and Nancy Ing……….’

Germanwings Crash Prompts Debate About Remote-Controlled Planes

Original post from NBC News


LANGEN, Germany — Technology that would allow planes to be controlled remotely in situations similar to the Germanwings tragedy is being eyed by German authorities.

Investigators believe co-pilot Andreas Lubitz locked his captain out of the cockpit and deliberately crashed the Germanwings plane into a French mountainside on March 24, killing 150 people.

Flight 4U9525’s descent took eight minutes, but authorities were powerless to intervene.

“French air traffic controllers were monitoring how the co-pilot put commands for zero altitude into the computer system, but could not do anything,” Axel Raab from German Air Traffic Control (DFS) told NBC News.

German officials have now started examining whether new research should be launched into systems that would allow the plane to be flown from the ground.

“We have to think past today’s technology,” DFS head Klaus Dieter Scheurle said at a press conference earlier this week.

In the wake of the 9/11 terror attacks and a Helios Airways crash in 2005, where the crew and passengers became unconscious, the European Union and several companies including DFS launched a research project called “Safe automatic flight back and landing of aircraft” — or SOFIA — in 2006.

Experts spent three years evaluating new systems that would allow air traffic controllers on the ground to take remote control of a passenger plane and safely land it in case of emergency.

“The crash of the Germanwings aircraft has given us some new impulse to think again about our research project,” DFS spokeswoman Kristina Kelek said. “The main thought has been how could it be possible that we try to influence a flight, a cockpit from the ground in case of an emergency.”

“One big question is if this would be an actual improvement or if we just create new risks.”

Kelek said that the project did not lead to a real-world experiment “because the development of that specific equipment hasn’t been yet done.”

So far, airlines have reacted cautiously to the renewed initiative. A spokesperson for Lufthansa Group, the parent company of Germanwings said: “We took notice of the new proposals and are evaluating, in coordination with our partners in the task force, how we can improve aircraft security.”

Some experts have warned of the vulnerability and safety risks of data streams between ground systems and aircraft.

The U.S. Government Accountability Office found in a report this week that because modern aircraft are increasingly connected to the Internet, “interconnectedness can potentially provide unauthorized remote access to aircraft avionics systems.”

Markus Wahl, the deputy spokesperson of the German airline pilots’ association Cockpit, told NBC News that the concept of remote-controlled aircraft raised potential safety issues.

“At the current time there are too many unsolved questions, so we cannot support this,” he said. “One big question is if this would be an actual improvement or if we just create new risks.”

Wahl warned that once there is a remote control system, it could be used by someone who is not authorized. He also said that pilots are still best equipped to handle an emergency.

“In the event of an emergency, you need all the information, and the pilots sitting in the cockpit are the only ones who have all of it,” he said.

Image: Rescue workers are seen at the crash site of the Germanwings Airbus A320, near Seyne-les-AlpesCLAUDE PARIS / POOL VIA REUTERS
Rescue workers near debris at the crash site of the Germanwings crash in the French Alps.

Earlier this month, a task force of experts, industry representatives and government officials was established to assess new criteria for flight safety following the fatal Germanwings plane crash.

It will also examine the DFS’ proposals “towards the end of its work process,” a German official told NBC News.

However, DFS stressed that remote controls for passenger aircraft would be a “long-term project” and that any new technology would need to be approved and certified internationally by the International Civil Aviation Organization.

Reuters contributed to this report.

First published April 19th 2015, 9:43 am

Lufthansa knew of co-pilot’s previous ‘severe depression’ in 2009

Original post from The Washington Post


A Lufthansa aircraft flies past the headquarters of Germanwings during take-off from Cologne-Bonn airport March 27, 2015. The co-pilot suspected of deliberately crashing a Germanwings jet into the French Alps last week told the Lufthansa flight training school about a previous period of depression, Lufthansa said on March 31, 2015. REUTERS/Wolfgang Rattay (Wolfgang Rattay/Reuters)

By Anthony Faiola and Michael Birnbaum

The co-pilot who crashed Flight 9525 into a French mountainside last week had informed the German carrier Lufthansa in 2009 about a “previous episode of severe depression,” the airline said on Tuesday, raising fresh questions about the series of decisions that allowed Andreas Lubitz to stay in the skies.

The admission that the company knew at least some of the history of Lubitz’s mental illness came after the company’s chief executive Carsten Spohr said publicly last week that Lufthansa — parent of the budget airline Germanwings for which Lubitz worked — had no previous knowledge of his medical history.

In a statement on Tuesday, however, the carrier said it wanted to issue a “swift and seamless clarification.” In 2009, Lubitz had taken several months off during his training to become a pilot. When he resumed the program, Lufthansa said, he provided them “medical documents” that noted his bout of severe depression.

The company said it had forward those documents to prosecutors who are now handling the crash as a homicide case.

Under European aviation law, pilots with active and untreated cases of depression are prevented from flying. But if deemed medically cured, there may have been no legal impediment for Lubitz to continue his training and obtaining his license, experts say.

However, pilots who have attempted “a single self-destructive act” – such as suicide –are legally barred from commercial flying. Also, pilots who are taking psychotropic medications — such as popular anti-depressants — as part of their therapy, for instance, have some limitations, including a stipulation that they not be alone in the cockpit.

German prosecutors said Monday that Lubitz had suffered from “suicidal tendencies” for which he was treated over an extended period. The prosecutors said the treatment occurred before he was issued a pilot’s license, and that they had found no indications that he was recently suicidal.

But Germany authorities have said that he had been issued multiple doctors’ notes judging him unfit to work, including one covering the day of the plane crash. At least one of the notes was found torn up in his apartment. The system depends on employees reporting their own medical conditions to their employers, and Lufthansa has said that it was not aware of the recent medical problems.

An official familiar with the investigation said Tuesday that authorities were not examining the Lufthansa Group for any negligence. Lufthansa provided investigators with information about Lubitz’s airline medical examinations and copies of previous correspondence with the airline, the official said. But since the depressive episode occurred in 2009, the official said that investigators did not believe Lufthansa was immediately culpable. During Lubitz’s employment with Germanwings, starting in 2013, his medical certificates and examinations declared him flightworthy.

The co-pilot of Germanwings Flight 9525 that crashed into the French Alps had received treatment for suicidal tendencies several years ago, prosecutors said. (AP)

A Lufthansa spokeswoman said that the company had graduated him from its rigorous flight school, despite the previous depressive episode, because following medical checks “he was perceived to be healed.”“At any time he was flying, he was declared fit to fly,” the spokeswoman said, who spoke on the condition that her name not be used, a German custom.When asked whether Lufthansa had known about any subsequent psychological condition, she said: “Not that we are aware of.”

Germany’s medical examinations for pilots give a yes-or-no answer to employers about whether aviators are ready to fly, offering no space for additional information or caveats. Officials familiar with the investigation have said that one working theory is that Lubitz was concerned about losing his medical certificate when it came up for renewal later this year.

Michael Müller, chief executive of ATTC, a company that helps prepare pilot candidates for entering flight schools, including Lufthansa’s, defended the carrier’s track record. He said he was aware of at least one instance, for example, when the company had pulled a pilot from the cockpit after his ex-wife had committed suicide.

“I’m afraid it will never be possible to prevent these thing from happening entirely,” he said. “In my view, Lufthansa did not fail. When a doctor says someone is healthy and he is certifying this, then he is allowed to fly. In a pilot’s career it can happen that you get ill, also psychologically. You can’t simply say, ‘we’ll let him go.’”

The Lufthansa Group has already offered $53,635 in immediate compensation to families of victims, but the new revelation was likely to open the airline to far greater damages. A Lufthansa spokesman said Tuesday that its insurer, Allianz, had set aside $300 million to pay for liability claims from victims’ families.

French President Francois Hollande visited German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin on Tuesday, where the two discussed the ongoing investigation into the catastrophe alongside a range of other issues.

Hollande called for bolstering the checks on pilots over European skies, saying that he was working toward “ensuring that we can strengthen our safety rules for piloting these aircraft.”

He said that more than 800 people were laboring at the mountain crash site to push the investigation forward as quickly as possible.

Separately, a French aviation investigation agency said on Tuesday that it had begun a study of “systemic weaknesses” that may have led to the crash. The French Bureau of Investigations and Analyses for Civil Aviation Security said it would focus on the procedures used “to detect psychological profiles,” as well as look at cockpit safety rules.

German investigators offered few new details about the status of their inquiry on Tuesday. One official familiar with the investigation said the initial questioning of Lubitz’s family and girlfriend had been completed, but that investigators remained in contact with them as new issues arose. The official said that neither Lubitz’s parents nor his girlfriend were aware of any suicidal impulses ahead of the plane crash.

Birnbaum reported from Düsseldorf.

Read more:

How a pilot can be locked out of the cockpit

Flight 9525’s final moments, minute by minute

 Anthony Faiola is The Post’s Berlin bureau chief. Faiola joined the Post in 1994, since then reporting for the paper from six continents and serving as bureau chief in Tokyo, Buenos Aires, New York and London.

 Michael Birnbaum is The Post’s Moscow bureau chief. He previously served as the Berlin correspondent and an education reporter.  …..’

An act of terror on Flight 9525

Original post from The Washington Post


A monument honoring victims of the Germanwings crash. (Patrick Aventurier/Getty Images

   Opinion writer March 26 2015

We don’t need to know the political or religious views of Germanwings co-pilot Andreas Günter Lubitz to call his crashing of a crowded airliner into a mountainside an act of terrorism. And we don’t need any further evidence to recognize a cruel irony: Legitimate fear of potential terrorist attacks apparently made this tragedy possible.

Imagine the final moments of Flight 9525 as it hurtled toward oblivion. Passengers were screaming. Some, I am certain, must have been praying. According to French prosecutor Brice Robin, the pilot, who had stepped out of the cockpit for a moment, was pounding on the door, trying desperately to get back in.

But, according to Robin, Lubitz, 27, who had been regarded as a rising star at the airline, refused to open the door — and it was impossible for the pilot, identified by German media as Patrick S., to break it down. “The door is reinforced according to international standards,” Robin said Thursday, using the wrong verb tense. He meant “was” reinforced. The door is now in bits and pieces, along with the rest of the Airbus A320, scattered among the crevices of the French Alps.

In the post-9/11 era, the cockpit doors of airliners are made to be impregnable. This is to ensure that terrorists cannot force their way inside and seize the controls — a logical precaution that probably has saved many lives. Terrorists may still attempt to smuggle explosives aboard commercial aircraft, but they know that invading the cockpit and crashing the plane would be all but impossible.

The deterrent is effective, however, only if nobody can open a locked cockpit door under any circumstances — not the passengers, not the flight attendants, not even the captain. Some sort of hidden latch or override switch would defeat the purpose, since terrorists could learn the secret. So the Germanwings plane was safe from terrorists — until the trusted co-pilot, in Robin’s account, committed a grotesque act of terrorism.

Officials involved in the investigation have been rejecting the word I just used. “There is no reason to suspect a terrorist attack,” Robin said, echoing the words of German Chancellor Angela Merkel and other leaders. I disagree.

What they mean is that there is no known link to terrorists or any known group such as al-Qaeda. Indeed, no such connection was immediately apparent from the sketchy outlines of Lubitz’s life that began to emerge Thursday. He reportedly had dreams of becoming a pilot since he was a teenager and belonged to a flying club in his home town about an hour from Frankfurt. He started working for Germanwings, Lufthansa’s budget airline, in September 2013 and amassed 630 hours of flight experience. He was regarded as talented and full of promise.

Surely we will soon learn another side to this picture. Normal, well-adjusted young men do not commit terroristic acts of mass murder.

As Lufthansa’s chief executive, Carsten Spohr, noted, “When someone kills himself and 149 others, . . . it is not a suicide.” If Lubitz wanted to kill himself in a plane crash, he could have gone to any small airport on his day off, rented a Cessna and flown it into the terrain of his choosing.

According to the prosecutor, Lubitz decided instead to make his exit by killing a jetliner full of travelers heading from Barcelona to Düsseldorf. There was a group of high school students. There were two singers who had just performed at Barcelona’s grand opera house. There were threeAmerican tourists.

Terrorism is often defined as violence committed for a political or religious purpose, and no one can say yet what the pilot had in mind. But no one does something like this without intending to make a statement. We may not yet know what it means — and I suppose it’s possible that we may never know. Murder of this kind, on this scale and in this chilling manner is terrorism.

It’s possible, I suppose, that Lubitz was profoundly delusional. But if this were the case, how could he have passed the airline’s annual medical exams? How could he have worked in such close quarters with fellow pilots, flight attendants and others, day after day, without anyone noticing behavior that suggested a problem?

 It looks as if Lubitz wasn’t just trying to end his life because he was depressed. He apparently decided to end 149 other lives as well because he wanted to tell us something. Tragically, this is precisely the kind of thing that terrorists do.

Read more on this issue:

Prosecutor: Germanwings Co-Pilot Appears To Have Crashed Plane Deliberately

Original post from The World Post

‘………..Reuters Posted: 03/26/2015 8:08 am EDT

Rescue workers work on debris at the plane crash site near Seyne-les-Alpes, France,
Rescue workers work on debris at the plane crash site near Seyne-les-Alpes, France,

PARIS, March 26 (Reuters) – The co-pilot of a Germanwings jet that went down in the French Alps, killing 150 people, appears to have crashed the plane deliberately, a Marseille prosecutor said on Thursday.

The German citizen, left in sole control of the Airbus A320 after the captain left the cockpit, refused to re-open the door and pressed a button that sent the jet into its fatal descent, the prosecutor told a news conference carried on live television.

(Reporting by Tim Hepher; Editing by James Regan)…………’

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