27 Mar 2015

Andreas Lubitz: what did Lufthansa know about his state?

Torn up documents, including doctor’s notes consenting time off work dated for the day of the French Alps disaster, have been found at the home of Andreas Lubitz, German prosecutors say.

The 27-year-old German who appears to have deliberately crashed the Airbus A320 after locking his captain out of the cockpit, hid the details of an existing illness from his employers, German prosecutors say.

Dusseldorf prosecutors said that torn-up doctor’s notes allowing the Lubitz time off from work had been found at his home. They are alleged to have included one dated for the day of the air disaster.

“Documents with medical contents were confiscated that point towards an existing illness and corresponding treatment by doctors,” a statement from the prosecutors’ office in Dusseldorf said.

“The fact there are sick notes saying he was unable to work, among other things, that were found torn up, which were recent and even from the day of the crime, support the assumption based on the preliminary examination that the deceased hid his illness from his employer and his professional colleagues.”

Germanwings has said it did not receive any note regarding Lubitz’s health.

‘Ongoing assessment’

Meanwhile a hospital in Dusseldorf said Lubitz had been a patient there over the past two months and last visited for a “diagnostic evaluation” on 10 March. It declined to provide details about his condition but denied German reports that it had treated the co-pilot for depression.

Lubitz’s medical records have been submitted to the prosecutors in Dusseldorf.

It came as demands grew for a full inquiry. France’s prime minister said Lufthansa should release all information it had about Lubitz “so that we can understand why this pilot got to the point of this horrific action”. Speaking on French TV, Manuel Valls said that nothing would be ruled out until the end of a full investigation.

Read more: Andreas Lubitz - what we know about Germanwings co-pilot

Meanwhile rescue workers in the French Alps continue the search for debris – conducting helicopter missions that retrieved body parts, jewellery and clothing of victims, according to eyewitness accounts.

‘Personal life crisis’

According to German newspaper Bild, Lubitz was going through a “personal life crisis”, while the Der Spiegel newspaper said he had taken a break in training because of “burnout syndrome”.

Matthias Gebauer, chief correspondent for the online edition of Der Spiegel, tweeted: “Schoolmates of co-pilot who crashed tell German reporters he took six months’ break from flight training in 2009 due to burnout syndrome.”

Lubitz had been employed as a flight attendant when he first tried to become a pilot in 2008 after waiting for eight months, but did not start working as a first officer for Lufthansa until September 2013

Read more: Germanwings crish pilot 'locked out of Airbus cockpit'

Andreas Lubitz, the co-pilot of the doomed Germanwings airliner, competing in a Lufthansa marathon in 2013.

‘No anger towards Lubitz’

Meanwhile the parents of one of the three Americans killed in the Germanwings crash said they feel no anger towards Lubitz and are instead finding solace in memories of their son.

Robert Oliver Calvo, whose 37-year-old son Robert Oliver was killed on Tuesday, said: “Instead of focusing our minds and hearts on those last nine or 10 minutes (of the flight), we prefer to think about those 37 years that we’ve been together.

He added: “I’m really sad for those parents of that young pilot. I can’t imagine what they’re going through right now.”

Lubitz’s homes searched

hile the relatives of the 150 people killed in Tuesday’s crash tried to come to terms with Lubitz’s actions, German police have searched the co-pilot’s home in Dusseldorf and seized material that will now be examined as part of the investigation.

They have also removed items from a home in Montabaur, a town 40 miles from Bonn, that Lubitz is believed to have shared with his parents.

Outlining evidence from the crashed plane’s black box cockpit voice recorder, Marseille prosecutor Brice Robin said Lubitz had deliberately put the plane into a descent after the captain left the cockpit.

He had refused to allow him back in and had made no response to calls from the ground or from other planes.

Jonathan Rugman: mystery surrounds Germanwings plane that crashed in French Alps

Airlines reassess policies

Some airlines are changing procedures to ensure two crew members are in the cockpit at all times during flights following the disaster.

Lufthansa said it would move to the rule “as soon as possible” across its airlines, which alongside Germanwings includes Austrian Airlines and Swiss Air. It has also appointed an official to oversee all “flight safety-relevant procedures” across the company.

The UK’s Civil Aviation Authority said it had contacted all UK operators to urge them to review safety procedures in the wake of the tragedy.

Monarch, easyJet, Virgin Atlantic and Thomas Cook all confirmed they had changed their policies, while Ryanair, Jet2 and Flybe said they already required two crew members to be in the cockpit at all times.

Public trust damaged

In a separate development, France’s leading pilots’ union said it intends to sue over leaks about the investigation. Pilots around Europe are angry that information about the final moments of the flight was reported in the media before authorities were informed.

Guillaume Schmid of France’s SNPL union said the lawsuit is over violating a French law on keeping investigation details secret while they are ongoing. They are concerned that the circumstances of Tuesday’s crash will damage public trust.