DATE: March 24th, 2015
TIME: 10.40 CET (CVR and FDR end - both located at crash site within two weeks)
AIRCRAFT: Airbus A320-200
ROUTE: Barcelona to Dusseldorf
CRASH STATUS: Collision with Mountainside in French Alps and total hull loss - Deliberately brought down by First-Officer
INVESTIGATION STATUS: Preliminary Report - Published May 2015, Final Report, March 2016 (here)
AIRCRAFT FATALTIES: 150
GROUND FATALTIES: 0
- PRIMARY: France (Airline crash site), Germany (Airline)
- SECONDARY: Spain (flight origin)
- ADVISORY: (Airbus aircraft)
- CRIMINAL INVESTIGATION: Germany, France
Germanwings Flight 9525 was a scheduled international passenger flight from Barcelona–El Prat Airport in Spain to Düsseldorf Airport in Germany, operated by Germanwings, a low-cost airline owned by Lufthansa.
On 24th March 2015, the aircraft, an Airbus A320-200, crashed 100 kilometres (62 mi) northwest of Nice, in the French Alps, after a constant descent that began one minute after the last routine contact with air traffic control and shortly after the aircraft had reached its assigned cruise altitude. All 144 passengers and six crew members were killed.
French and German prosecutors believe that the crash was intentionally caused by the co-pilot, 27-year-old Andreas Lubitz. Although he had been declared "unfit to work" and was hiding an illness from his employers, Lubitz reported for duty nonetheless, locking the captain out of the cockpit before initiating a descent that caused the plane to impact a mountain.
In response to the incident and the circumstances of Lubitz's involvement, aviation authorities in Canada, New Zealand, Germany and Australia implemented new regulations that require two authorized personnel to be present in the cockpit at all times. Three days after the incident the European Aviation Safety Agency issued a temporary recommendation for airlines to ensure that at least two crew members, including at least one pilot, are in the cockpit at all times of the flight. Several airlines announced they had already adopted similar policies voluntarily.
The crash was intentionally caused by the co-pilot, Andreas Lubitz. Having previously been treated for suicidal tendencies and been declared "unfit to work" by a doctor, Lubitz kept this information from his employer and reported for duty. During the flight, he locked the captain out of the cockpit before initiating a descent that caused the plane to crash into a mountain.
In response to the incident and the circumstances of Lubitz's involvement, aviation authorities in Canada, New Zealand, Germany, and Australia implemented new regulations that require two authorized personnel to be present in the cockpit at all times. Three days after the incident, the European Aviation Safety Agency issued a temporary recommendation for airlines to ensure that at least two crew members, including at least one pilot, are in the cockpit at all times of the flight. Several airlines announced they had already adopted similar policies voluntarily.
Flight 9525 took off from Runway 07R at Barcelona–El Prat Airport at 10:01 a.m. CET and was due to arrive at Düsseldorf Airport by 11:39 CET. The flight's scheduled departure time was 9:35 CET.
According to the French national civil aviation inquiries bureau, the Bureau d'Enquêtes et d'Analyses pour la Sécurité de l'Aviation Civile (BEA), pilots confirmed instructions from French air traffic control at 10:30 CET. At 10:31 CET, after crossing the French coast near Toulon, the aircraft left its assigned cruising altitude of 38,000 feet (12,000 m) and without approval began a rapid descent. The air traffic controller declared the aircraft in distress after the aircraft's descent and loss of radio contact.
The crash is the deadliest air disaster in France since the crash of Inex-Adria Aviopromet Flight 1308 in 1981, in which 180 people died, and the third-deadliest in France behind Flight 1308 and Turkish Airlines Flight 981. This was the first major crash of a civil airliner in France since the crash of Air France Flight 4590 on takeoff from Charles de Gaulle Airport in 2000. The crash is also the first loss of a Lufthansa-owned airliner during the cruising phase of flight.
Passengers & Crew
The co-pilot was 27-year-old First Officer Andreas Lubitz, who had 630 flight hours of experience. Lubitz took time off from his flight training for several months and informed the Flight Training Pilot School in 2009 of a "previous episode" of severe depression. Investigators in Düsseldorf said that Lubitz had been treated for suicidal tendencies several years before becoming a pilot.
Probable Cause of Crash & Flight Events
According to French and German prosecutors, the crash was intentional. Marseille prosecutor Brice Robin said that co-pilot Andreas Lubitz, a 27-year-old German citizen, was initially courteous to Captain Sondenheimer in the first part of the trip, then became "curt" when the captain began the mid-flight briefing on the planned landing. Robin said that when the captain returned from a probable toilet break and tried to enter the cockpit, Lubitz had locked the door. The captain had a code to unlock the door, but the code panel can be disabled from the cockpit controls. The captain requested re-entry using the intercom, knocking and then banging on the door, but received no response. The captain then tried to break down the door. During the descent, the co-pilot also did not respond to questions from air traffic control and did not transmit a distress call. Robin said that contact from the Marseille air traffic control tower, the captain's attempts to break in, and Lubitz's steady breathing were audible on the cockpit voice recorder. The screams of passengers can be heard in the last moments before impact.
After their analysis of the aircraft's flight data recorder, the BEA stated that Lubitz deliberately crashed the aircraft. He set the autopilot to descend to 100 feet (30 m), modifying the autopilot setting several times to increase the aircraft's descent speed. The aircraft was traveling at 700 kilometres per hour (430 mph) when it crashed into the mountain.
In the weeks before the BEA's preliminary report, the investigation into Lubitz found he had been treated for suicidal tendencies prior to his training as a commercial pilot and had been temporarily denied a US pilot's license because of these treatments for depression. The final report of the BEA confirmed the preliminary report's findings, saying the co-pilot began showing symptoms of psychotic depression. For five years, Lubitz had frequently been unable to sleep because of what he believed were vision problems; he consulted over forty doctors and feared he was going blind. Motivated by the fear that blindness would cause him to lose his pilot's licence, he began conducting online research about methods of committing suicide before deciding to crash Flight 9525.