herald

Thursday 19 October 2017

The lead investigator at the crash site in the France Alps said that the airliner was crashed deliberately.

The lead investigator at the crash site in the France Alps said that the airliner was crashed deliberately.

The co-pilot Andreas Lubitz "accelerated the descent of the plane" when he was alone in the cockpit, Marseille prosecutor Brice Robin said this morning.

That can only be done deliberately, he said, adding that screams could be heard on the sound recording of the plane's final moments.

Audio from the mangled voice recorder of Germanwings Flight 9525 reveals a struggle on board when one of the pilots was locked out of the cockpit and was trying to get inside when the plane crashed, according to media reports.

voluntary

"I believe it was a voluntary descent," Mr Robin said.

"One, to refuse re-entry into the cockpit. Two, to start the command to lose altitude at 1,000 metres per minute as if he was coming in to land, in the mountains. There was no one else in the cockpit."

Mr Robin said that the mechanism to put the airline into descent requires a button to be turned deliberately.

"You need to turn and turn the button in order to continue the descent. So if he falls unconscious, it would at most be turned once," he said. "To go from 12,000 metres to 2,000 it would need several turns."

The recordings did not make clear why the pilot left or why he could not regain entry as the plane operated by budget airline Germanwings steadily descended towards a mountain range in a remote area of the French Alps on Tuesday.

Investigators were studying the voice recordings from one of the "black boxes" for answers while the search continued for a second in the ravine where the plane crashed, killing all 150 on board.

"The guy outside is knocking lightly on the door and there is no answer," an investigator described only as a senior French military official told the New York Times.

"Then he hits the door stronger and no answer. There is never an answer. You can hear he is trying to smash the door down."

The cockpit audio had showed "very smooth, very cool" conversation between the pilots in the early part of the flight.

"We don't know yet the reason why one of the guys went out," the official said. "But what is sure is that at the very end of the flight, the other pilot is alone and does not open the door."

A spokesman for Germanwings' owner Lufthansa said: "We have no information from the authorities that confirms this report and we are seeking more information. We will not take part in speculation on the causes of the crash."

It confirmed that the main pilot had more than 6,000 hours of flying time, while the more junior co-pilot had 630 hours and had been with Germanwings since September 2013.

France's BEA air investigation bureau said it was too early to draw meaningful conclusions on why the plane went down.

"We have not yet been able to study and to establish an exact timing for all the sounds and words heard on this file," BEA director Remi Jouty said.

He expected the first basic analysis in days, but warned that the read-out could be subject to errors. Pilots may temporarily leave the cockpit at certain times and in certain circumstances while the aircraft is cruising.

Lufthansa said its cockpit doors can be opened from the outside with a code, in line with regulations introduced after the September 11 attacks. However, the code system can be blocked from inside the cockpit.

The BEA already ruled out a mid-air explosion. It also noted the airliner had flown in a straight line directly into the mountain, but had no word on whether that seemed to be at the hand of a pilot or auto-pilot.

French president Francois Hollande, Germany's Angela Merkel and Spain's Mariano Rajoy visited the crash site today to pay tribute to the victims.

Germanwings said 72 Germans were killed. The number of Spanish victims was revised down to 50. Victims also included three Americans, a Moroccan and citizens of Britain, Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Colombia, Denmark, Israel, Japan, Mexico, Iran and Holland.

hnews@herald.ie

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