26 Mar 2015

Andreas Lubitz: what we know about Germanwings co-pilot

He was a 28-year-old with normal interests. Yet Andreas Lubitz sat, silent and alone, in the cockpit of the Germanwings Airbus during its fatal descent. What more do we know about him?

More information is emerging about Andreas Guenter Lubitz, the co-pilot of the Germanwings Airbus A320 which crashed in the French Alps on Tuesday on a flight between Barcelona and Dusseldorf.

We know that Lubitz, whose name was leaked by the Wall Street Journal earlier today, was a 28-year-old German national. He had two official addresses: the family home at Montabaur, the town where he was born and where his parents live, and an apartment in Dusseldorf.

He learned to fly at LSC Westerwald, a local aviation club in Montabaur. A member of the club, quoted on Germany’s Bild website, describes Lubitz as a “quiet but friendly man”

Germany’s Interior Minister, Thomas de Maiziere, said that Lubitz had no known association with terrorist groups.

Read more: Germanwings crash co-pilot 'wanted to destroy the plane'

Training interrupted

Lubitz trained at the Lufthansa pilot training academy in Bremen, which has declined to talk about him. He was employed as a flight attendant when he first tried to become a pilot in 2008 but did not start working as a first officer for Germanwings, Lufthansa’s budget subsidiary, until September 2013.

Carsten Spohr, Lufthansa’s chief executive, said he did not know why Lubitz had interrupted his training.

“I cannot tell you anything about the reasons of this interruption,” he told a press conference in Cologne today, “but anybody who interrupts the training has to do a lot of tests, so the competence and fitness would be checked again.”

I cannot tell you anything about the reasons of this interruption. Carsten Spohr, Lufthansa CEO, on the break in Andreas Lubitz’s pilot training

As co-pilot, he was the less experienced of the two men in charge of the plane, with only 630 hours of flying time. His captain had flown for more than 6,000 hours and had worked for Lufthansa for 10 years.

In the same month that Lubitz began at Germanwings, the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) announced that it was including him in its FAA Airmen Certification Database.

Inclusion on the database would have signified recognition that Lubitz had reached attained the high standards established by the FAA.

Details on a recently removed Facebook page suggests normal interests like dance music (“David Guetta”). It also links to other Facebook pages including Lufthansa and an Airbus A320 technical site “run by experienced Airbus pilots for the A320 family”.

Lubitz’s role in the Germanwings tragedy may prompt questions about the recruitment and training of pilots across the industry.

But Carsten Spohr told today’s press conference that “my firm confidence in the selection of our pilots, in the training of our pilots, in the qualification of our pilots, and in the work of our pilots, has not been touched by this single tragedy”.

Read more: Mystery surrounds Germanwings plane that crashed in French Alps

‘Wish to destroy the aircraft’

In a press conference, French prosecutor Brice Robin gave details of the final minutes of the Germanwings Airbus, according to information contained on the flight voice recorder.

The Marseille official confirmed that the co-pilot was called Andreas Lubitz, and said that he appeared to have initiated the command for the Airbus to lose altitude, which he suggested reflected “a wish to destroy the aircraft”.

Prosecutor Robin said Lubitz had refused to reopen the door to his co-pilot after he had left the cabin. He said Lubitz was breathing and alive until the plane hit the ground.

Audio recovered from the cockpit voice recorder indicated that Lubitz said nothing while he was alone in control of the plane. “It was absolute silence in the cockpit,” the prosecutor said.