Flying was his dream, say some, while others mention depression
ANDREAS Lubitz was the boy who grew up dreaming of flying and of one day becoming a pilot.
He went on to fulfil his ambition, but it now appears that it was at the cost of 149 innocent lives.
The Marseille prosecutor said on Thursday that Lubitz, 27, the co-pilot of the Germanwings Airbus that flew into an Alpine mountainside, may have crashed the plane deliberately.
“The co-pilot is alone at the controls,” Brice Robin said, drawing on information gathered from the black box recorder. “He refused to open the door of the cockpit to the pilot and deliberately began the descent of the plane.”
Robin said the 144 passengers died instantly and probably were not aware until the very last moment of the impending disaster.
“The screams are heard only in the last moments before the impact,” the prosecutor said.
The young Lubitz was brought up in the small town of Montabaur, near the German city of Koblentz.
With his father a successful business executive and his mother a piano teacher his family could well afford the cost of flying lessons at his local club, Luftorts Club Westerwald. Here he started in the cockpit of a light aircraft at the age of 14 and after a couple of years of instruction was able to fly on his own.
Klaus Radker, the club’s chairman, said: “It was his dream to fly from an early age . . . so when he went on to gain his commercial licence and fly planes like the Airbus he was very happy and proud.”
Radker last saw Lubitz late last year, when he returned to the club to renew his light aircraft flying licence and go to the club’s barbecue, which he attended with a girlfriend. Nobody noticed anything strange in his demeanour.
“He seemed normal. Proud of his job after so much training. He seemed happy,” Radker said. “I always found him a friendly, if very reserved, person. Open and polite.”
Lubitz left Montabaur at the age of 20 in 2007 to begin his commercial pilot’s training in the city of Bremen.
It was a year into his training that he appeared to have suffered a breakdown and took a break, before returning to qualify.
The mother of a schoolmate told the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung that he had told her daughter he had taken a break from his pilot training because he was suffering from depression. “Apparently he had a burnout; he was in depression,” the woman, whom the paper did not name, said.
She said her daughter had seen him again just before Christmas and that he had appeared normal. Lubitz was a “lovely boy”.
“He had a good family background,” she told the paper.
By the time of the disaster Lubitz was still relatively inexperienced, having notched up only 630 hours of flying time, compared to the flight captain’s 6 000 hours.
Like many, Radker has also been left stunned by what happened above the French Alps on Tuesday, and he is anxious that a comprehensive investigation take place before judgment is passed on his fellow club member.
“I find it hard to believe that Andreas . . . would deliberately fly his plane into a mountain and kill all those people. If that is true it also means that the results of all the psychological tests he would have had to take to be a pilot were wrong.”
Robin said Lubitz was not known to have had links to extremist groups, and that his religion was “unknown”.
Late on Wednesday, it became clear that one of the pilots was locked out of the cockpit before the plane descended, and tried to get back in, according to a senior source in the investigation.
The Lubitz home is being treated as a potential crime scene. Police officers have carried out a forensic search of the house. They are also thought to be searching a flat Lubitz rented in Dusseldorf.
Armin Pleiss, head teacher of the Mons-Tabor-Gymnasium high school where Lubitz graduated in 2007, said: “I am just as shocked and surprised as you are.”
Laura, a neighbour, said: “I didn’t know him well, but to me he seemed, perhaps a little bit withdrawn. But who would have guessed at something so shocking happening?”
– The Telegraph