Germanwings Flight 9525 crash
Germanwings Flight 9525 (4U9525/GWI18G) was a scheduled international passenger flight from Barcelona–El Prat Airport in Spain to Düsseldorf Airport in Germany, operated by Germanwings, a low-cost airline owned by Lufthansa. On 24 March 2015, the aircraft, an Airbus A320-200, crashed 100 kilometres (62 mi) northwest of Nice, in the French Alps, after a constant descent that began one minute after the last routine contact with air traffic control and shortly after the aircraft had reached its assigned cruise altitude. All 144 passengers and six crew members were killed.
The crash was deliberately caused by the co-pilot, Andreas Lubitz. Having previously been treated for suicidal tendencies and been declared "unfit to work" by a doctor, Lubitz kept this information from his employer and reported for duty. During the flight, he locked the pilot out of the cockpit before initiating a descent that caused the aircraft to crash into a mountain.
In response to the incident and the circumstances of Lubitz's involvement, aviation authorities in Canada, New Zealand, Germany, and Australia implemented new regulations that require two authorized personnel to be present in the cockpit at all times. Three days after the incident, the European Aviation Safety Agency issued a temporary recommendation for airlines to ensure that at least two crew members, including at least one pilot, are in the cockpit at all times of the flight. Several airlines announced they had already adopted similar policies voluntarily.
Flight 9525 took off from Runway 07R at Barcelona–El Prat Airport on 24 March 2015 at 10:01 a.m. CET (09:01 UTC) and was due to arrive at Düsseldorf Airport by 11:39 CET. The flight's scheduled departure time was 9:35 CET.
According to the French national civil aviation inquiries bureau, the Bureau d'Enquêtes et d'Analyses pour la Sécurité de l'Aviation Civile (BEA), the pilots confirmed instructions from French air traffic control at 10:30 CET. At 10:31 CET, after crossing the French coast near Toulon, the aircraft left its assigned cruising altitude of 38,000 feet (12,000 m) and without approval began a rapid descent. The air traffic controller declared the aircraft in distress after the aircraft's descent and loss of radio contact.
The descent time from 38,000 feet was about ten minutes; radar observed an average descent rate of approximately 3,400 feet per minute or 58 feet per second (18 m/s). Attempts by French air traffic control to contact the flight on the assigned radio frequency were not answered. A French military Mirage jet was scrambled from the Orange-Caritat Air Base to intercept the aircraft. According to the BEA, radar contact was lost at 10:40 CET; at the time, the aircraft had descended to an altitude of 6,175 feet (1,882 m). The aircraft crashed within the territory of the remote commune of Prads-Haute-Bléone, 100 kilometres (62 mi) northwest of Nice.
The crash is the deadliest air disaster in France since the crash of Inex-Adria Aviopromet Flight 1308 in 1981, in which 180 people died, and the third-deadliest in France behind Flight 1308 and Turkish Airlines Flight 981. This was the first major crash of a civil airliner in France since the crash of Air France Flight 4590 on takeoff from Charles de Gaulle Airport in 2000.
The crash site is within the Massif des Trois-Évêchés, three kilometres (2 mi) east of the settlement of Le Vernet and beyond the road to the Col de Mariaud, in an area known as the Ravin du Rosé. The site is on the southern side of the Tête du Travers, a minor peak at the lower western slopes of the Tête de l'Estrop. The site is approximately 10 kilometres (6 mi) west of Mount Cimet, where Air France Flight 178 crashed in 1953.
Gendarmerie nationale and Sécurité Civile sent helicopters to locate the wreckage. The aircraft had disintegrated, with the largest piece of wreckage being "the size of a car". A helicopter landed near the site of the crash and confirmed there were no survivors. The search and rescue team reported that the debris field is two square kilometres (500 acres) in size.
A memorial stone was erected in Le Vernet in memory of the victims.
The aircraft was a 24-year-old Airbus A320-211, serial number 147, registered as D-AIPX. It first flew on 29 November 1990. It was delivered to Lufthansa on 5 February 1991 before being leased to Germanwings from 1 June 2003 until mid-2004. It was then returned to Lufthansa on 22 July 2004 and remained with Lufthansa until 2014, during which time it was named Mannheim. It was finally transferred to Germanwings on 31 January 2014.
The aircraft had accumulated about 58,300 flight hours on 46,700 flights. The original Design Service Goal (DSG) of the aircraft was 60,000 hours or 48,000 flights. In 2012, an optional Extended Service Goal (ESG1) was approved, extending the service life to 120,000 hours or 60,000 flights, provided that a required package of service and inspections was performed before the DSG was reached.
Crew and passengers
There were 144 passengers, two pilots, and four cabin crew on board from at least 18 countries, mostly Germany and Spain. The count was confused by multiple citizenship.
The pilot in command, 34-year-old Captain Patrick Sondenheimer, had ten years of flying experience (6,000 flight hours) flying A320s with Germanwings, Lufthansa, and Condor.
The co-pilot was 27-year-old First Officer Andreas Lubitz, who joined Germanwings in September 2013, and had 630 flight hours of experience.
Andreas Günter Lubitz (born 18 December 1987) grew up in Neuburg an der Donau, Bavaria and Montabaur in the German state of Rhineland-Palatinate, in a middle-class family. He took flying lessons at Luftsportclub Westerwald, an aviation sports club in Montabaur.
Lubitz was accepted into a Lufthansa trainee program after high school. Starting in 2008, he received pilot training at the Lufthansa Flight Training school in Bremen, Germany, and at the Lufthansa Airline Training Center in Goodyear, Arizona, United States. Lubitz took time off from his flight training for several months and informed the Flight Training Pilot School in 2009 of a "previous episode" of severe depression. He later completed the training, and worked as a flight attendant at the airline during an eleven-month waiting period.
Prior to his training as a commercial pilot, he was treated for suicidal tendencies. Lubitz had been temporarily denied a U.S. pilot's license because of these treatments for depression. During the five years leading up to the fatal flight, he consulted dozens of doctors in an attempt to gain assistance with some undisclosed medical condition, fearing he was going blind. Later he conducted online research about methods of committing suicide.
Among the passengers were sixteen students and two teachers from the Joseph-König-Gymnasium of Haltern am See, North Rhine-Westphalia. They were on their way home from a student exchange with the Giola Institute in Llinars del Vallès, Barcelona. Haltern's mayor, Bodo Klimpel, has described it as "the darkest day in the history of [the] town". Bass-baritone Oleg Bryjak and contralto Maria Radner, singers with Deutsche Oper am Rhein, were also on the flight.
The remains of 44 of the 72 German victims arrived in Düsseldorf for burial three months after the crash.
The French Bureau d'Enquêtes et d'Analyses pour la Sécurité de l'Aviation Civile (BEA) opened an investigation into the crash, joined by its German counterpart, the Federal Bureau of Aircraft Accident Investigation (BFU), and assisted by the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). Hours after the crash, the BEA sent seven investigators to the crash site accompanied by representatives from Airbus and CFM International. The cockpit voice recorder (CVR), damaged but still usable, was recovered by rescue workers and was examined by the investigation team. The following week, Marseille prosecutor Brice Robin announced that the flight data recorder, blackened by fire but still usable, had also been found. Investigators isolated 150 different sets of DNA, which must be compared to the families of the deceased.
Cause of crash
According to French and German prosecutors, the crash was intentional. Marseille prosecutor Brice Robin said that co-pilot Andreas Lubitz, a 27-year-old German citizen, was initially courteous to Captain Sondenheimer in the first part of the trip, then became "curt" when the captain began the mid-flight briefing on the planned landing. Robin said that when the captain returned from a probable toilet break and tried to enter the cockpit, Lubitz had locked the door. The captain had a code to unlock the door, but the code panel can be disabled from the cockpit controls. The captain requested re-entry using the intercom, knocking and then banging on the door, but received no response. The captain then tried to break down the door. During the descent, the co-pilot also did not respond to questions from air traffic control and did not transmit a distress call. Robin said that contact from the Marseille air traffic control tower, the captain's attempts to break in, and Lubitz's steady breathing were audible on the cockpit voice recorder. The screams of passengers can be heard in the last moments before impact.
After their initial analysis of the aircraft's flight data recorder, the BEA stated that Lubitz deliberately crashed the aircraft. He set the autopilot to descend to 100 ft (30 m) and increased the speed several times thereafter. The aircraft was travelling at 700 kilometres per hour (430 mph) when it crashed into the mountain.
The BEA interim report into the accident was published a month later, on 6 May 2015. It revealed that during the earlier outbound Flight 9524 from Düsseldorf to Barcelona, Lubitz had practised setting the autopilot altitude dial to 100 ft (30 m) several times while the captain was out of the cockpit.
Investigation of Lubitz
Three days after the crash, German detectives searched properties in Montabaur that Lubitz spent time in and removed a computer and other items for testing. They did not find a suicide note or any evidence that his actions had been motivated by "a political or religious background". During their search of Lubitz's apartment, detectives found a letter in a waste bin indicating that he had been declared "unfit to work" by a doctor. Germanwings reported that it had not received any sick note for the day of the flight. News accounts characterized this as "hiding an illness from his employers", as employers do not have access to medical records of employees under German law, and sick notes excusing a person from work do not give information on medical conditions.
The following day, authorities searched his house again, finding evidence that he was taking prescription drugs and that he suffered from a "psychosomatic illness". Criminal investigators revealed that Lubitz's tablet computer web searches in the days leading up to the crash included "ways to commit suicide" and "cockpit doors and their security provisions" as well as research into his perceived blindness problem. Prosecutor Brice Robin said he had been told by doctors he should not be flying, but that unfortunately "medical secrecy requirements" prevented this information from being made available to his employer Germanwings.
French Minister of the Interior Bernard Cazeneuve promptly announced that due to the "violence of the impact" there was "little hope" that any survivors would be found. Prime Minister Manuel Valls dispatched Cazeneuve to the scene and set up a ministerial crisis cell to co-ordinate the response to the incident.
German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier flew over the crash site, describing it as "a picture of horror". German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Hannelore Kraft, the minister-president of North Rhine-Westphalia, traveled to the crash site the following day. Merkel visited the recovery operations base at Seyne-les-Alpes along with French Prime Minister Valls and Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy.
Mayor Bodo Klimpel of Haltern am See, reacting to the deaths of sixteen students and two teachers from the town, said: "A feeling of shock can be felt everywhere. It is about the worst thing imaginable."
Lufthansa Chief Executive Carsten Spohr visited the crash location the next day, saying this is "the darkest day for Lufthansa in its 60-year history". Several Germanwings flights were cancelled on 24–25 March due to the pilots' grief at the loss of their colleagues. Germanwings retired the flight number 4U9525, changing it to 4U9441; the outbound flight number was also changed: from 4U9524 to 4U9440.
In the days following the crash, Lufthansa had said that it did not see any reason to change its procedures, then introduced a new policy in which all their airlines (including Germanwings) require two crew members in the cockpit at all times.
In response to the incident and the circumstances of Lubitz's involvement, aviation authorities in Australia, Canada, Germany, New Zealand, and the Philippines implemented new regulations that require two authorized personnel to be present in the cockpit of large passenger aircraft at all times. While the United States Federal Aviation Administration, the Civil Aviation Administration of China, and some European airlines already had a similar "rule of two" requirement, the European Aviation Safety Agency recommended that similar legal changes be introduced while other airlines announced similar changes to their policies.
The British Psychological Society issued a statement offering to provide expert support to any "discussion about the psychological testing, and monitoring, of pilots following this incident." The European Federation of Psychologists' Associations (EFPA) also issued a statement saying "Psychological assessment before entry to flight training and before admission to active service by an airline can help to select pilots. However, it cannot forecast the life events and mental health problems occurring in the life of each individual pilot and the unique way he or she will cope with these." It concluded: "In the aftermath of the disaster priority should be given to psychological help for relatives and friends of victims. Psychologists are already involved in providing assistance as members of national and airline crisis intervention teams. It is equally important to support flight crews in overcoming the impact of this tragic event."
In May 2015, Lufthansa CEO Carsten Spohr proposed loosening of the current doctor-patient confidentiality laws to allow reporting of mental health issues and random psychological fitness and drug testing.
On 27 March, Germanwings' parent company Lufthansa offered victims' families an initial aid payment of up to €50,000, separate from any compensation that must by law be paid over the disaster. Elmar Giemulla, a professor of aviation law at the Technical University of Berlin, quoted by the Rheinische Post, said that he expected the airline would pay a total of €10–30 million in compensation. The Montreal Convention sets a €143,000 cap per victim in the event an airline is held liable unless negligence can be proved. Insurance specialists stated that although co-pilot Andreas Lubitz hid a serious illness from his employer and deliberately crashed the passenger plane, these facts would not affect the issue of compensation nor be applicable to the exclusion clause in Lufthansa's insurance policy. Lufthansa's insurance company has set aside US$300 million (€280 million) for financial compensation to victims' families and for the cost of the aircraft itself.
On 17 April 2015 about 1,400 relatives of victims, senior politicians, rescue workers and airline employees attended a memorial service at Cologne Cathedral. The parents of Andreas Lubitz were invited but chose not to attend.
Sixteen young students and two female colleagues will never again return to our midst.
We mourn our students and pupils:
* Linda Bergjügen
* Elena Bleẞ
* Lea Drüppel
* Selia Eils
* Gina Michelle Gerdes
* Ann-Christin Hahn
* Julia Hermann
* Marleen Koch
* Paula Lütkenhaus
* Fabio Rogge
* Rabea Scheideler
* Lea Schukart
* Helena Siebe
* Steffen Strang
* Aline Vanhoff
* Caja Westermann
And our colleagues:
* Sonja Cercek
* Stefanie Tegethoff
Our deepest sympathy goes out to the parents and all family and friends.
We are stunned and unspeakably sad.
Ulrich Wessel — headteacher
Thomas Duettman — for the staff
Magdalene Fry — for the parents
Johanna Koenig — for the alumni community
No places assigned