Winnipeg Free Press Newspaper Archives Mar 27 2015, Page 8

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Winnipeg Free Press (Newspaper) - March 27, 2015, Winnipeg, Manitoba C M Y K PAGE A8 A 8 WINNIPEG FREE PRESS, FRIDAY, MARCH 27, 2015 AIR TRAGEDY winnipegfreepress. com MONTABAUR, Germany — Andreas Lubitz never appeared anything but thrilled to have landed a pilot’s job with Germanwings, according to those who helped him learn to fly as a teenager in this town in the forested hills of western Germany. On Thursday, French prosecutors said Lubitz, the co- pilot of Germanwings Flight 9525, “ intentionally” crashed the jet into the side of a mountain Tuesday in the French Alps. Members of his hometown flight club in Montabaur, where he renewed his glider licence last fall, told The Associated Press the 27- year- old Lubitz appeared to be happy with the job he had at the airline, a low- cost carrier in the Lufthansa Group. However, there were reports Thursday Lubitz may have had a brief, untreated bout of depression while undergoing pilot training. Lufthansa said Lubitz had taken a break during his training but had been thoroughly tested and cleared upon his return, completed his training and was considered “ 100 per cent fit and ready to fly.” But the mother of one of his former classmates told German newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Lubitz had confessed to her daughter a few years ago his time out during training was because of “ a burnout, a depression.” After starting as a co- pilot with Germanwings in September 2013, Lubitz was upbeat when he returned to the LSC Westerwald e. V glider club to update his glider pilot’s licence with about 20 takeoffs. “ He was happy he had the job with Germanwings, and he was doing well,” said longtime club member Peter Ruecker, who watched Lubitz learn to fly. “ He was very happy. He gave off a good feeling.” Club chairman Klaus Radke said he rejects the Marseille prosecutors’ conclusion Lubitz deliberately put the Germanwings flight into a descent and dove it straight into the French Alps after the pilot had briefly left the cockpit. “ I don’t see how anyone can draw such conclusions before the investigation is completed,” he told the AP. At the house of Lubitz’s parents, the curtains were drawn and four police cars were parked outside. Police blocked the media from the singlefamily, two- storey home in a prosperous new subdivision on the edge of Montabaur, a town 60 kilometres northwest of Frankfurt. A team of investigators entered the home and, on Thursday evening, people could be seen emerging with blue bags, a big cardboard box and what looked like a large computer. Another person who came out was shielded from reporters with a coat by police. Investigators also searched the apartment Lubitz kept in Duesseldorf in an upscale, three- storey building in an affluent neighbourhood. In Montabaur, neighbour Johannes Rossmann said Lubitz appeared to be in good health and was a regular jogger. He described the pilot as calm and low- key. “ I do not believe he killed himself and claimed other people’s lives,” the 22- year- old Rossmann said. “ I can’t believe it until it is 100 per cent confirmed.” Lubitz learned to fly at the glider club in a sleek, white ASK- 21 two- seat glider, which sits in a small hangar today on the side of the facility’s grass runway. Ruecker said he remembers Lubitz as “ rather quiet but friendly” when he first showed up at the club as a 14- or 15- year- old saying he wanted to learn to fly. After obtaining his glider pilot’s licence as a teenager, he was accepted as a Lufthansa trainee after finishing the tough German preparatory school at the town’s Mons- Tabor High School. According to Lufthansa chief executive Carsten Spohr, Lubitz trained in Bremen, Germany and in Phoenix, Ariz., starting in 2008. He said there was a “ several- month” gap in his training six years ago, but he couldn’t say what the reason was for that. After the break, Lubitz “ not only passed all medical tests but also his flight training, all flying tests and checks,” Spohr told reporters, saying the co- pilot was “ 100 per cent fit to fly, without any limitations.” — The Associated Press, McClatchy P ARIS — Passengers with moments to live screamed in terror, and the pilot frantically pounded on the locked cockpit door as a 27- year- old German co- pilot deliberately and wordlessly smashed an Airbus carrying 150 people into an Alpine mountainside. The account Thursday of the final moments of Germanwings Flight 9525 prompted some airlines to immediately impose stricter cockpit rules — and raised haunting questions about the motive of the co- pilot, whose breathing never wavered as he destroyed the plane and the lives of those aboard. “ We have no idea of the reason,” Marseille prosecutor Brice Robin said, revealing the chilling conclusions investigators reached after reconstructing the final minutes of the flight from the plane’s black- box voice recorder. Copilot Andreas Lubitz’s intention was “ to destroy this plane.” “ People who commit suicide usually do so alone. When you do it with 150 people behind you, it’s not suicide,” Robin said. “ That is why I am not using this word. I don’t call it a suicide.” French, German and U. S. officials said there was no indication of terrorism. The prosecutor did not elaborate on why investigators do not suspect a political motive; instead, they’re focusing on the co- pilot’s “ personal, family and professional environment” to try to determine why he did it. German Chancellor Angela Merkel, whose nation lost 75 people on the flight, said the conclusions brought the tragedy to a “ new, simply incomprehensible dimension.” Devastated families of victims visited the crash scene Thursday, looking across a windy mountain meadow toward where their loved ones died. The Airbus A320 was flying from Barcelona to Duesseldorf Tuesday when it lost radio contact with air traffic controllers and began plunging from its cruising altitude of 38,000 feet before slamming into the mountainside eight minutes later. The prosecutor laid out in horrifying detail the final sounds heard in the cockpit extracted from the mangled voice recorder. Lubitz, courteous in the first part of the trip, became “ curt” when the captain began the mid- flight briefing on the planned landing, Robin said. The pilot, who has not been identified, left the cockpit for an apparent bathroom break, and Lubitz took control of the jet. He suddenly started a manual descent, and the pilot started knocking on the door. There was no response. “ It was absolute silence in the cockpit,” the prosecutor said — except for the steady breathing he said indicated Lubitz was not panicked and acted in a calm, deliberate manner. The A320 is designed with safeguards to allow emergency entry into the cockpit if a pilot inside is unresponsive. But the override code known to the crew does not go into effect if the person inside the cockpit specifically denies entry. Instrument alarms went off, but no distress call ever went out from the cockpit, and the control tower’s pleas for a response went unanswered. Just before the plane hit the mountain, passengers’ cries of terror could be heard. “ The victims realized just at the last moment,” Robin said. “ We can hear them screaming.” Their families “ are having a hard time believing it,” he said, after briefing some of them in Marseille. Many victims’ relatives visited an Alpine clearing Thursday where French authorities set up a viewing tent for family members to look toward the site of the crash, so steep and treacherous it can only be reached by a long journey on foot or rappelling from a helicopter. Lubitz’s family was in France but was being kept separate from the other families, Robin said. German investigators searched his apartment and his parents’ home in Montabaur, Germany, where the curtains were drawn. The prosecutor’s account prompted quick moves toward stricter cockpit rules — and calls for more. Airlines in Europe are not required to have two people in the cockpit at all times, unlike the standard U. S. operating procedure, which was changed after the 9/ 11 attacks to require a flight attendant to take the spot of a briefly departing pilot. Canada and Germany’s biggest airlines, including Lufthansa and Air Berlin, as well as low- cost European carriers Easyjet and Norwegian Air Shuttle announced new rules requiring two crew members to always be present. Some experts said even two isn’t enough, and called for rules to require three. — The Associated Press Terror as co- pilot downs plane Investigators say deadly crash was caused by deliberate action By Angela Charlton and David McHugh ‘ He gave off a good feeling’ But co- pilot may have battled depression By David McHugh THE ASSOCIATED PRESS Undated image of Andreas Lubitz RUOPPOLO GUILLAUME / ZUMA PRESS French prosecutor Brice Robin ( centre) talks about the evidence pointing to deliberate actions by the co- pilot in the crash of a Germanwings jet, killing all 150 people on board, during a press conference Thursday. ‘ People who commit suicide usually do so alone. When you do it with 150 people behind you, it’s not suicide. That is why I am not using this word. I don’t call it a suicide’ — French prosecutor leading the investigation, Brice Robin MICHAEL PROBST / THE ASSOCIATED PRESS Police hold media away Thursday from the house where Andreas Lubitz lived in Montabaur, Germany. 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