Alps crash co-pilot sped plane up as it descended
The co-pilot of the doomed Germanwings flight repeatedly sped up the plane as he used the automatic pilot to descend the A320 into the Alps, the French air accident investigation agency said yesterday.
The chilling new detail from the BEA agency is based on an initial reading of the plane's "black box" data recorder, found buried at the crash site on Thursday.
It strengthens investigators' initial suspicions that co-pilot Andreas Lubitz intentionally destroyed the plane, though prosecutors are still trying to figure out why. All 150 people aboard Flight 9525 from Barcelona to Dusseldorf were killed in the March 24 crash.
The BEA said the preliminary reading of the data recorder shows the pilot used the automatic pilot to put the plane into a descent and then repeatedly during the descent adjusted it to speed up.
The agency said it will continue studying the black box for more complete details.
The flight data recorder records aircraft parameters such as the speed and altitude and actions of the pilot on the commands.
Based on recordings from the other black box, the cockpit voice recorder, inves- tigators say Lubitz locked the pilot out of the cockpit and deliberately crashed.
Lubitz spent time online researching suicide methods and cockpit door security in the week before the crash, prosecutors said on Thursday, the first evidence that the fatal descent may have been premeditated.
Lubitz's medical records from before he received his pilot's licence referred to "suicidal tendencies", and Lufthansa, Germanwings' parent company, said it knew six years ago that Lubitz had had an episode of "severe depression" before he finished his flight training.
In Marseille, prosecutor Brice Robin said his investigation focuses on France for now, but he has filed a formal request for judicial co-operation from Germany that could expand the scope of his probe.
Robin underlined French investigators' conviction that he was conscious until the moment of impact, and appears to have acted repeatedly to stop an excessive speed alarm from sounding.
"It's a voluntary action that guided this plane towards the mountain, not only losing altitude but correcting the aircraft's speed," he said.