Germanwings Flight 9525 crashed into the French Alps Tuesday morning, killing everyone aboard. On Thursday, officials said that the crash that killed 150 was deliberate and a mass-murder investigation had been launched.
Here’s what we know – and don’t know – about the Germanwings crash.
- Germanwings co-pilot Andreas Lubitz deliberately crashed. Lubitz, 28, locked the cockpit door after the plane’s captain left the cockpit briefly and manually directed the plane to descend. He ignored calls from air traffic control and a knock on the door from the captain. The captain began to bang on the door to try to gain reentry, but was kept out. “We are speaking of a deliberate, voluntary action to refuse to open the door of cabin for the commander; he activated the button to lose altitude,” Marseille Prosecutor Brice Robin said at a press conference.
- We don’t know why Lubitz crashed the plane. In the eight minutes before impact, Lubitz was silent while he ignored calls from air traffic control and the banging on the cockpit door by the captain. “We don’t know why he did it for now, we assume to destroy the plane,” Robin said. Lufthansa CEO Carsten Spohr said the motivation is unclear but if the co-pilot was trying kill himself, what he did was “something more than suicide.” Authorities for the airline said there is no psychological testing for pilots, though Lubitz had passed medical tests.
- Lubitz began training in 2008, but took a break in 2009 for several months. Lufthansa officials said they can’t disclose the reason for the interruption due to privacy laws. But Spohr did say that was not unusual, that Lubitz was re-evaluated before his training resumed, and that he passed all his tests.
- Lubitz was a young pilot of German nationality. He lived in Montabaur, just an hour and a half from where the plane was scheduled to land. He had roughly 630 hours of flight time – and 18 months – at Germanwings, a company he joined in 2013 after flight school, which Lufthansa officials said he’d done in Phoenix, Arizona. Authorities do not yet know his origin or religion, but he was not deemed to be any kind of terrorist by authorities ahead of the incident. Lubitz was a member of a local flying club, which said Wednesday – before the nature of Lubitz’ involvement was made public – that it had learned “with horror” that a “long-time member” had been lost in the tragedy.
- Lubitz had an American pilot’s license, the FAA said, to operate a single-engine plane. One of the requirements for that qualification was English proficiency and a German pilots license.
- The system that kept the captain locked out was implemented after 9/11 to keep planes from being hijacked. Lufthansa policy allows pilots to leave the cockpit once the plane is at cruising altitude “for biological reasons,” Lufthansa officials said. And if the copilot manning the plane during the time becomes incapacitated in some way, there is a protocol for the captain to get back in. But this protocol – which allows flight crew to enter a code that would automatically release the door if the pilot manning the plane is non-responsive – can be overridden from within the cockpit. In the United States, there is a secondary policy that requires a flight attendant to wait in the cockpit if the pilot leaves, in order to visually identify the pilot before he or she reenters. Sophr said there is no such policy in large European airlines and he does not yet see the need for it.
- The passengers did not know what was happening. Passengers were quiet during the eight minute descent; just moments before impact, screams were heard on the black box audio recording indicating the victims realized what was happening shortly before impact.