On Friday, March 24, the third anniversary of the crash of Germanwings 9525 into the French Alps, the father of the pilot who is believed to have crashed the plane, Andreas Lubitz, held a lengthy press conference to proclaim his son’s innocence. The majority of the talking was done by a German aviation journalist, Tim van Beveren. The media widely reported that the event took place but ignored what was said. The popular consensus has long been that Lubitz was guilty, and so the general tone of the coverage was scathing. (In my 2015 Kindle Single, Fatal Descent, I also concluded that Lubitz was responsible for the fatal plunge.) I think it is irresponsible to dismiss an assertion without bothering to listen to it, so I’m grateful to reader Robert Pete for sending me the following synopsis of the press conference, which I’m passing along verbatim.
The father of the co-pilot of the Germanwings flight which crashed asked an aviation expert (T van Br) to investigate what actually happened. He had tried unsuccessfully himself to investigate. The press conference presented the findings.
1. The father represented that his son, the pilot, had been treated for depression in 2008-2009 and had been able to fully recover.
2. The French authorities released a statement 48 hours after the crash which presented the thesis that the co-pilot was a depressive mass-murderer who had with intent and preparation locked the captain outside, put the plane into descent, and crashed it into the mountainside.
3. This thesis has not been altered to the present day.
4. The co-pilot’s family is in search of the truth. If their son was guilty of such an act or not, they want to know.
5. The attorney for the press conference explained that they feel that the thesis presented by the French authorities is incorrect.
6. Herr van B presented his credentials to undertake this investigation for the co-pilot’s family.
7. His first point was that the authorities did not know WHO was in the cockpit when they released their statement 48 hours after the crash. 2 months later they knew the person in the cockpit was alive, but they did not know if he was conscious. They still do not know who was in the cockpit.
8. Hr v B explained that the investigation was run by 2 engineers. One trained in aviation. The second in electronics. No human-factor experts have ever been able to listen to the flight data recorders.
9. Hr v B showed the airplane flight certificate. It was unusual in several ways: it was issued the day before the crash, it was altered with handwritten changes, it had been due to expire in 11 days, it was extended for less than 1 year (contrary to rule), and the signature did not match the printed name. The irregularities with the certificate were never followed up in the investigation.
10. The flight data recorder was originally reported as burned. 9 days after the accident it was found under some rocks. The data was read, but never published. But some inconsistencies are present. The maneuvers suggested in the thesis (shutting the door and selecting Descent in 1 second) were tried in a flight simulator. Not realistic to do. Also, the recorders showed the plane to be in Open Descent mode and Descent mode simultaneously, which is impossible to have. So there are some unresolved problems here.
11. As to the cockpit door. Entry is allowed by pushing the latch after getting a knock. It is not necessary to latch the door. There is a keypad, through which some can ring or use emergency code access. This plane had the emergency code access fail while on the ground days before the accident, causing mechanics to be summoned. This was reported to Hr v B 2 days after the crash. He passed it to the authorities. It was never investigated. There is no evidence in the report that the co-pilot barred the door to the pilot.
12. The weather map for that day is in the report. It shows a low-level, high-velocity jet stream in that same area. Other pilots who flew that route descended to a lower altitude because of its presence. The flight data recording is missing the parameter normally present which records the G-force.
13. The report says the pilot suffered a heavy psychotic attack which disrupted his capability and his sense of reality. This was written by engineers, since no human-factor experts have yet to hear/see the evidence. Human factor experts interviewed by Hr v B say that this statement is highly speculative and cannot be based on factual data.
14.. Nevertheless, IF the statement were correct, then the accident report is mis-categorized. Since then the accident should be regarded as the incapicitation of the crew.
15. When the Duesseldorf Criminal Police investigated the co-pilot’s dwelling, his life-partner (sig other) was not present. Statements she supposedly made are not correct. They found one Ipad the first day they searched. They found a second one the next day. A third Ipad was turned over to the police by a third party AFTER the French police had announced that the plane was flown into the side of the mountain by a chronic depressive as a suicide act. The third Ipad is the one that had his Internet history of browsing for cockpit door info. These messages also came without the check numbers to tie them to the actual Ipad.
That’s what was covered at the press conference in Berlin. Hr v B concluded by saying that there exists no motive for the crash. He has none to offer. He only wants the investigation to continue. Settling for the thesis offered by the French authorities 48 hours after the crash seems to be wrong, in view of the evidence we know of now and in view of the lack of human-factor experts to participate.
UPDATE: The Aviation Herald has published a lengthy elucidation of these issues, including a response from the BEA, which states, “What was presented or suggested is incompatible with the factual and recorded data contained in the final report of the BEA.”
Personally, while there may have been flaws or even inconsistencies in the official report, I find it hard to imagine what an alternative explanation for this crash might look like.