Co-pilot Andreas Lubitz deliberately rehearsed the fatal dive of Germanwings Flight 9525 on the first leg of the Dusseldorf–Barcelona flight the same day of the fatal crash that killed 150 people, according to a preliminary report published Wednesday.
Lubitz is accused of taking control of the Germanwings flight and purposely crashing into the French Alps, killing all 150 on board.
The findings by the French air accident investigation agency, known as the B.E.A., indicate Lubitz co-piloted the first leg of the Germany – Spain flight route and repeatedly set the Germanwings plane to a low flying altitude while the captain was out of the cockpit.
The report -- based on analysis of the aircraft's flight data recorder and cockpit voice recorder – indicates that the earlier flight's maneuvers occurred while the flight captain had temporarily left the cockpit, leaving Lubitz in control of the flight.
"To us, it is clear that this was some kind of rehearsal," Rémi Jouty, the director of the B.E.A., said in a telephone interview to the New York Times. "We see the same actions being taken in the same circumstances, at a moment when the co-pilot was alone in the cockpit."
Lubitz is suspected of purposely locking the captain of Germanwings Flight 9525 out of the cockpit so he could crash the plane. The flight data record indicates that despite the co-pilot's desperate attempts to access the locked cockpit doors, Lubitz refused to let him re-enter and disregarded frantic calls from air traffic controllers as the plane made its fatal descent.
The 29-page report provides further evidence that Lubitz intentionally crashed the Airbus A320, killing himself and 149 others on the flight.
Following the crash, investigators uncovered evidence of Lubitz' history of severe depression. Investigators say Lubitz had searched the internet for methods of committing suicide just days before the fatal flight.
The revelation of Lubitz' bouts of depression sparked global debate on the necessity of monitoring the mental health of pilots and the vulnerability of commercial passenger flights.
Experts say autopilot technology currently employed by the US Air Force could have prevented the Germanwings crash and believe the technology should be used in all commercial flights.
According to a report in Newsweek, flight engineers attest that the military technology currently used by the Air Force can save lives – and would have save all 150 aboard the Germanwings flight.
The Automatic Ground Collision Avoidance System (Auto-GCAS) is currently used by the U.S. military to monitor a plane's position and distance relative to the ground. If there is no response from the pilot and the plane is at risk of crashing, the aircraft will go into autopilot mode and take the plane to a safe flight altitude.
Do you think the Automatic Ground Avoidance System should be mandatory on commercial flights?
[Andreas Lubitz photo courtesy the Washington Post]