By Jean-Baptiste Piggin in Berlin and
Jessica Camille Aguirre in Paris dpa, Berlin (TNS)
April 02–BERLIN/PARIS — Andreas Lubitz, the co-pilot alleged to have intentionally downed Germanwings flight 4U9525 killing himself and 149 others on board, researched suicide methods and cockpit door security mechanism on the internet, German prosecutors said Thursday.
Lubitz’s browser history for the period March 16-23 was still stored on a tablet computer found in his Dusseldorf apartment, the city’s prosecutor said. Lubitz is thought to have manually changed the plane’s flight trajectory and caused the fatal crash on March 24.
Prosecutor Ralf Herrenbrueck said he concluded that Lubitz had been the person searching based on login information, personal emails and the search terms.
“It showed the user searched on the one hand for medical treatment methods and on the other for suicide types and how to go about them,” Herrenbrueck said. “At least one day, the person also spent several minutes trying out search terms for cockpit doors and their security protection.”
The findings underscored a string of revelations about 27-year-old Lubitz’s precarious health, after prosecutors revealed he had a note in his medical file acknowledging suicidal tendencies years back.
Lufthansa, Germanwings parent company, also said they had an email from him saying he was grappling with depression during flight school training in 2009, sparking questions about why his history did not raise red flags at the airline carrier.
Two days after the crash, Lufthansa chief executive Carsten Spohr had said Lubitz had passed all his medical tests, and that he “was fit for flying without any restrictions.”
Lubitz had also passed medical and psychological evaluations to obtain a student pilot certificate from the US Federal Aviation Authority in 2010.
The plane’s second black box, the digital flight data recorder, was found Thursday in the remote region of the French Alps where the Airbus A320 slammed into a mountainside as it flew from Barcelona, Spain en route to Dusseldorf, Germany. The crash claimed victims from more than a dozen countries, and many on board were from Germany and Spain.
Speaking at a press conference, the French prosecutor in charge of the country’s criminal investigation said that 150 DNA profiles had been retrieved at the site after investigators had collected 2,854 pieces of human remains.
Brice Robin, head of the French probe that is parallel to the German investigation, had changed the status of the case from involuntary homicide after hearing audio captured on one of the plane’s two black boxes, the cockpit voice recorder.
But investigators hoping to glean more details from the flight recorder, which captures parametres of the plane, have been combing the mountainside searching for it since the crash. Brice said that the recorder was finally found in a condition that would probably allow the data it carried to be extracted.
DNA samples collected at the site will be transferred to laboratories where technicians begin the process of matching the snippets with other samples drawn from the victims’ belongings. Francois Daoust, the head of one of the DNA tracing labs, told dpa the process of formal identification could take up to four months.
Responding to mounting questions about safety procedures, Germany launched a review of airline safety and set up a panel of authorities and airlines to find ways to prevent a similar crash.
It will scrutinize findings from criminal inquiries in France and Germany into what caused the crash and see if
changes are needed in the cockpit-locking mechanism on jets and in the procedure for pilots to pass medical tests.
The panel will be jointly led by Germany’s aviation regulator LBA and the airlines association BDL and will include air crew union leaders and aviation medical specialists, who will face the task of examining already stringent regulations.
“The co-pilot was repeatedly certified healthy,” BDL president Klaus-Peter Siegloch said. “Airlines assume they can rely on a fitness-to-fly certificate.”
Officials at France’s aviation authority, BEA, who are conducting similar examinations have said they have narrowed the focus of their investigation to “cockpit door locking system logic and cockpit access and exit procedures, as well as the criteria and procedures applied to detect specific psychological profiles.”