Readers of this blog will recall my post Germanwings Crash – Deliberate act by Co-pilot? where it is suggested that the co-pilot deliberatly flew the Airbus A320 into the French Alps.
I came across this story today by Christine Negroni which takes a somewhat alternate and plausible view of what may have happened on the flight deck of the Germanwings aircraft. I tend to agree with her, as it is far too early to conclusively say what has occurred. I know when the “murder-suicide” theory was brought to my attention by a colleague, I replied that the thought of this being a deliberate action was too “bizarre” to contemplate, and bordered on conspiracy theory. But French investigators were saying that was so, therefore it must be – right?
So I’m now glad that somebody else sees the possibility of another cause of this disaster!
The news coming from the French prosecutor Brice Robin regarding Monday’s crash of Germanwings Flight 9295 is shocking, but on what facts is the statement based? Surely Mr. Robin knows something he’s not sharing with the rest of us, or how could he possibly come to the conclusion that “the co-pilot wanted to destroy the aircraft”? And yet that is what he is saying based on facts that still could suggest other possibilities.
The evidence so far suggests first officer Andreas Lubitz deliberately flew the plane to a lower altitude. What we do know is that the plane wound up crashing into a mountain. The question Mr. Robin has not answered is how he knows the co-pilot had that end in mind.
We know the plane was commanded down to a lower altitude after reaching 38,000 feet. We do not yet know why.
We know the Captain, identified in as Patrick Sonderheimer, left the cockpit and was unable to get back in. We do not know that he tried to enter using the door passcode or that the door was blocked beyond the normal locking function. All we know is that the cockpit voice recorder shows he tried to enter by knocking. There is a suggestion that an axe was used to try and gain access to the flight deck – ed.
There may be reasons for trying to enter by knocking, including confusion or distraction due to alarm.
We know that the first officer Lubitz failed to heed the knocks on the door. We do not know if this was deliberate. We know Lubitz was breathing. Both his inappropriate action in not heeding the knocking on the door and his breathing is consistent with deliberate action OR incapacitation.
Finally, unlike in the United States and other countries, the French judicial authorities are in charge of cockpit voice recorders and flight data recorders, which then makes them available to the air safety agency the Bureau d’Enquêtes et d’Analyses. There’s a reason for this increased oversight: In the crash of an Airbus A-320 in 1988, BEA was suspected of tampering with FDR data.
As a consequence, air accidents in France are seen through the prism of criminality. In other countries seasoned air safety investigators understand there is a multitude of factors that contribute to a disaster and will wait to have all the evidence before drawing conclusions.
This is the only way I can understand how the Marseilles French prosecutor made the tremendous leap of logic in concluding that the first officer “wanted” to crash the plane killing all 150 onboard.
The evidence so far shows Lubitz deliberately flew the plane to a lower altitude and a crash resulted. The question not answered in anything I’ve heard or seen is whether he intended for that to happen. This is not a subtle quibble. It makes a monumental difference in what really happened to Germanwings Flight 9295.
Source: Christine Negroni is an aviation journalist and safety specialist who is writing a book on aviation mysteries to be published by Penguin in 2016. This story first appeared on her blog.