Germanwings co-pilot appears to have crashed plane intentionally - Spokane, North Idaho News & Weather KHQ.com

Germanwings co-pilot appears to have crashed plane intentionally, French officials say

Posted: Updated:

By Alastair Jamieson, Carlo Angerer and Nancy Ing

NBCNEWS.COM  - One of the pilots of the crashed Germanwings plane appears to have "intentionally" forced the jet into a descent while his captain was locked out of the cockpit, prosecutors said Thursday.

The First Officer, Andreas Lubitz, was alone at the controls of the Airbus A320 as it began its rapid descent, Marseille Prosecutor Brice Robin told a news conference.

"Banging" sounds were heard on the crashed plane's cockpit voice recorder, Brice said, suggesting the captain was trying to regain entry to the flight deck.

However, the reinforced cockpit door was locked from the inside and could not be overridden, even with a coded entry panel.

"If he had been able to open this door, the captain would have done it," Brice said.

Lubitz "didn't say a word" during the descent, he added.

"Was it suicide? I'm not using the word, I don't know. Given the information I have at this time … I can tell you that he deliberately made possible the loss of altitude of the aircraft, which is not totally abnormal."

Germanwings' parent company Lufthansa earlier said the First Officer joined Germanwings in September 2013, directly after training, and had flown 630 hours.

His captain was an "experienced" pilot, with more than 10 years' experience with the organization and more than 6,000 flight hours on the Airbus model.

Many airlines, especially U.S. carriers, have a flight attendant come into the flight deck if a pilot leaves, for example during a bathroom break.

While Lufthansa would not comment on its cockpit security procedures, it said it followed rules set out by German authorities that allow temporary absence from the flight deck.

Former pilots and aviation experts told NBC News that ultimate control of the locked, reinforced cockpit door would remain with whoever was inside the cockpit. Most planes have coded entry door controls, but these can be overridden with a double lock — a practice implemented industry-wide after the 9/11 attacks.

"The cockpit has the ultimate control of the door," said former pilot Captain John Cox. "If it is placed in the override mode then no matter what is done with the code pad, the door will remain locked. The security people were very firm on the need for the flight deck to remain the ultimate authority."

"It's likely that an airline like Lufthansa will have fitted the highest specification of security technology," said David Gleave, an aviation safety investigator based at Loughborough University near Leicester, England.

"These reinforced doors are designed to be very strong — they can't be smashed open. That's the point of them."

He added: "Even though this report has not been confirmed, investigators will be listening to the cockpit voice recorder, trying to ascertain who was in the cockpit and what was said. It's a psychologically demanding task given that you know the plane has crashed."

Meanwhile, relatives and friends of the 150 victims of Tuesday's crash began boarding special flights to bring them toward the remote crash site.


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