The crash of Germanwings Flight 9525 on Tuesday, that killed all 150 people on board when the Airbus A320-200 slammed into the side of a mountain in the French alps on its way from Barcelona, Spain, to Dusseldorf, Germany, bears a bizarre and disturbing similarity to a disaster that occurred just 16 months ago in Namibia — assuming the early conclusions of crash investigators are correct.
Investigators in France Thursday announced that the co-pilot of Flight 9525, 28-year-old Andreas Lubitz, deliberately crashed the Germanwings plane, after locking the more experienced pilot out of the cockpit, most likely when the pilot stepped out briefly to use the rest room.
The Germanwings Airbus that crashed on Tuesday, with registration number D-AIPX, is pictured above, taking off from Barcelona in May of 2014.
According to French prosecutor Brice Robin, as the pilot first knocks then pounds frantically on the cockpit door, Lubitz set the plane’s controls to put the plane into a gradual descent from its 38,000-foot cruising altitude — ending with the aircraft at about 6,000 feet when it struck the mountainside.
Pilots or co-pilots of major commercial airliners have deliberately crashed planes before, on at least eight known occasions. But in most of those cases, the plane’s descent has been sudden and steep.
In the case of EgyptAir Flight 990, for example, the co-pilot was found to have waited until the captain stepped out shortly after takeoff from New York’s JohnF. Kennedy Airport, then quickly plunged the Boeing 767 into a rapid descent, crashing into the waters off on Nantucket Island.
The Egypt Air tragedy, killing 217, took place on October 31, 1999. About two years earlier the pilot of Silk Air Flight 185 apparently dove his Boeing 737 into a river in Indonesia.
But on November 29, 2013, the pilot of a Mozambique Airlines plane, Flight 470 from Mozambique to Angola, locked out his co-pilot and set his plane on a gradual descent, finally crashing in a national park in Namibia — in eerily similar fashion to the way Lubitz is alleged to have brought down Germanwings Flight 9525.
The Mozambique Airlines crash of an Embraer 190 airliner killed all 33 on board. About a month after the disaster investigators concluded that Captain Herminio dos Santos Fernandes changed the autopilot settings three times during a prolonged descent, each time bringing the plane closer to the ground.
The plane’s black box voice recorder revealed that alarms were sounding and the co-pilot banged on the door, pleading to be let back into the cockpit as the pilot methodically flew the plane closer and closer to the ground.
In an especially disturbing twist, dos Santos Fernandes — unlike Lubitz in this week’s Germanwings crash — finally allowed his co-pilot back into the cockpit, just moments before the plane hit the ground.
No motive for the Mozambiqure Airlines pilot’s actions has ever been clearly determined. Investigators say they are searching for a possible motive for why Andreas Lubitz crashed Germanwings Flight 9525, but so far they have no idea.
[Image: Wikimedia Commons]