Transcripts of the black box recording of the Germanwings flight that crashed in the French Alps, killing 150 passengers, have been published. The transcript reveals the pilot’s last-ditch efforts to break into the cockpit and regain control of the plane after his co-pilot locked him out.
Co-pilot Andreas Lubitz locked out pilot Patrick Sondheimer, after the pilot left the cockpit, just before landing in Dusseldorf, to go to the bathroom.
The transcript published by the German newspaper Bild am Sonntag, reveals Lubitz trying repeatedly to convince Sondheimer to go to the bathroom. He reassured Sondheimer that he could go the bathroom any time he wished, saying he would take over the controls while he was away.
The transcript recorded the pilot earlier apologizing to customers for the almost 30-minute delay in Barcelona and promising that he would try to make up for time lost during the flight to Dusseldorf.
Then Sondheimer and the co-pilot Lubitz engaged in general conversation, during which Lubitz, carefully, but persistently, reminded the pilot that he did not use the bathroom when the plane stopped in Barcelona. He repeatedly told the pilot not to worry, assuring him that he would take over the controls until the pilot returned from the bathroom.
The series of events that led to the tragic end commenced at about 10:27 a.m. when the plane, cruising at an altitude of 38,000 ft, began preparing for the landing in Dusseldorf. When the pilot instructed his co-pilot to begin preparing for landing, he repeatedly qualified his comments about the landing with words such as “hopefully” and “we’ll see.”
French investigators described his tone as “laconic.” But the pilot had no reason to suspect mischief at the time.
After the two had completed the routine checks for landing, Lubitz urged the pilot to go the bathroom once again, saying, “You can go now.”
Sondheimer apparently completed a few more checks and at about 10:30 a.m., he is heard saying, “You can take over,” as he exits the cockpit.
After the pilot left the cockpit, the co-pilot locked him out and began descent manually.
The flight radar began tracking the plane’s descent ostensibly in preparation for landing at 10:29 a.m. The plane had descended about 1,800 ft by 10:32 a.m. At that point, traffic controllers attempted unsuccessfully to contact the pilot. The last successful contact was at about 10:30 a.m.
An automatic alarm soon sounded to warn that the plane was descending too fast.
The pilot returned from the toilet at about 10:31 a.m. and found that he had been locked out. He tried to open the door by tapping in the security code on a keypad by the door but he found that his co-pilot had disabled the keypad from inside.
Pilots are allowed to disable the security lock’s keypad from inside the cockpit to prevent hijackers from using it to access the cockpit.
The recordings revealed the pilot’s effort to force open the door.
Loud banging was heard. The pilot had apparently realized that the plane was descending fast. As he banged on the door, he yelled, “For God’s sake, open the door!”
The passengers appeared to have heard the commotion. Their screaming could be heard in the background.
At about 10:34 a.m., a warning message sounded, “Ground! Pull up! Pull up!”
The plane was about 7,000 ft above the ground at 10:35 a.m. when “loud metallic banging” could be heard, indicating the pilot was using a metallic object to try to force open the door.
It is believed that he tried to force open the door with an ax. But the Daily Mail reports that investigators said the only ax in the plane was the one in the cockpit so it was unlikely that the pilot had an ax. However, it believed that he might have found a crowbar.
Loud banging on the door continued as the plane descended, with Sondheimer yelling even louder, “For God’s sake, open the God d*** door!”
The engines could be heard as the plane descended at 10:38 a.m., and passengers screaming at about 10:39 a.m. Finally, at about 10:40 a.m., the plane hit the mountain at a speed of more than 400 mph and hurtled into a ravine in the mountainside.
The noise of the crash was accompanied by the last screams of the passengers.