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Prosecutor: Germanwings co-pilot wanted to 'destroy the plane'

By
Amy R. Connolly
Handout pictures dated 25 March 2015 members of the French national gendarmerie investigating the area after the A320 Lufthansa passenger aircraft crashed in a mountain range of the French Alps. The plane heading to Dusseldorf from Barcelona with 150 people onboard was allegedly taken down by its co-pilot Andreas Lubitz, there were no survivors. Photo by Francis Pellier/MI DICOM/UPI
Handout pictures dated 25 March 2015 members of the French national gendarmerie investigating the area after the A320 Lufthansa passenger aircraft crashed in a mountain range of the French Alps. The plane heading to Dusseldorf from Barcelona with 150 people onboard was allegedly taken down by its co-pilot Andreas Lubitz, there were no survivors. Photo by Francis Pellier/MI DICOM/UPI | License Photo

PARIS, March 26 (UPI) -- A French prosecutor said the co-pilot of Germanwings Flight 9525 intentionally sped the descent of the aircraft into the French Alps, saying the cockpit voice recorder captured the sound of the co-pilot breathing until the last seconds of the flight.

Marseille Prosecutor Brice Robin said Thursday the co-pilot appeared to want to "destroy the plane."

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Robin said the voice recorder from the plane revealed the co-pilot was alive until impact. He said there was a "deliberate attempt to destroy the aircraft."

Brice said the co-pilot, Andreas Lubitz, was a German national and not on any terror list. Brice told reporters, "He was breathing normally, he did not utter a single word," indicating he may not have suffered a medical emergency. The Wall Street Journal reported Lubitz, 28, was a member of a flight club in Germany.

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At a separate press conference, Lufthansa CEO Carsten Spohr said there was nothing to indicate Lubitz was not fit to fly. Lufthansa, the parent company of Germanwings, performs annual medical checks but does not perform psychological testing after training, he said. Lubitz has been with Germanwings since graduating training in 2013. He interrupted his training for a period about six years ago, but it's not clear why. Company officials said they will be looking into the absence.

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Officials said the pilot, who has been identified by some media outlets but whose identity has not been officially confirmed, did not break protocol by leaving the cockpit. Cockpit doors, which have been rigged to automatically lock since the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks, can be manually opened from the outside through an elaborate override system involving time delays and passcodes on a keypad.

Germanwings CEO Thomas Winkelmann said the pilot had some 6,000 hours experience flying the Airbus 320 model and had been flying with Lufthansa and Germanwings for more than a decade. The last routine check of the aircraft was March 23 in Dusseldorf by Lufthansa technicians. The last major check was in summer 2013.

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The Germanwings flight from Barcelona to Duesseldorf hit a mountain on Tuesday after a rapid descent.

Early Thursday, Germanwings officials would not comment on New York Times reports that one of the pilots was locked out of the cockpit.

"We are working on obtaining more information but will not participate in any kind of speculation. The investigation on what caused the accident falls to the responsible authorities," the company said.

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The newspaper quoted a senior French military official involved in the investigation, saying there was a "very smooth, very cool" conversation between the two pilots early in the flight. One left the cockpit and tried to return.

"The guy outside is knocking lightly on the door, and there is no answer. And then he hits the door stronger, and no answer. There is never an answer," the investigator told the Times. "You can hear he is trying to smash the door down."

The search through the wreckage of the plane continued Thursday as Lufthansa arranged two special flights for friends and relatives to visit the site.

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