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Germanwings flight 4U9525 deliberately flown into mountain, says prosecutor

By Kim Willsher

The co-pilot of the Germanwings plane that crashed in the French Alps on Tuesday, killing 150 people, appears to have deliberately flown it into a mountain after locking the flight captain out of the cockpit.

During the last eight minutes of the flight, the co-pilot “voluntarily” carried out actions that led to the destruction of the aircraft, Brice Robin, a French public prosecutor, said at a press conference in Marseille.

Citing evidence from a cockpit voice recorder recovered from the Airbus A320, Robin outlined the last moments of the doomed plane in a chilling account of the actions of the co-pilot, whom he named as 28-year-old Andreas Lubitz.

 Marseille public prosecutor says co-pilot of Airbus A320 deliberately forced the plane into a descent

Robin said Lubitz could be heard breathing right up until the point of impact, suggesting he had not lost consciousness. However, he failed to respond to increasingly desperate calls from the captain trying to break down the cockpit door, or to air traffic controllers. Passengers could be heard screaming just before the crash, Robin said.

Lufthansa, the parent airline of Germanwings, said Lubitz’s actions had left the company “absolutely speechless”.

Lubitz had been flying for Germanwings since September 2013 after being trained with Lufthansa at its facility in Bremen. He had clocked up a total of 630 hours in the air.

Robin said Lubitz had “no reason to do it” and no links to terrorist groups. “There is nothing to suggest this was a terrorist act,” he said.

The CEO of Lufthansa said its air crew were picked carefully and subjected to psychological vetting.

“No matter your safety regulations, no matter how high you set the bar, and we have incredibly high standards, there is no way to rule out such an event,” CEO Carsten Spohr said.

Robin said that for the first 20 minutes of the flight, the pilots spoke in a normal way, “you could say cheerful and courteous”.

“We heard the flight commander prepare the briefing for landing at Düsseldorf and the response of the co-pilot seemed laconic. Then we heard the commander ask the co-pilot to take the controls.

“We heard at the same time the sound of a seat being pushed back and the sound of a door closing.”

Robin said it was assumed that the captain needed to go to “satisfy natural needs”.

“At that moment, the co-pilot was alone at the controls and it was while he was alone that the co-pilot manipulated the flight monitoring system to action the descent of the plane. The action of selecting the altitude could only have been done voluntarily,” Robin said.

“We heard several calls from the flight commander asking for access to the cockpit. There was a visual and audio interphone and he identified himself. There was no response from the co-pilot.

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