French officials believe that the co-pilot who was locked in the cockpit of the Germanwings French plane that crashed this week “intentionally” began the rapid descent that sent the aircraft plummeting into the French alps, the BBC reports.
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“This was not an accident,” a French official said at a press conference on Thursday.
A senior military official with knowledge of a cockpit voice recording from the plane told The New York Times earlier this week that one of the pilots was locked out of the cockpit and could not get back in before the plane crashed, killing all 150 people on board.
“The guy outside is knocking lightly on the door and there is no answer,” the investigator told the Times. “And then he hits the door stronger and no answer. There is never an answer. … You can hear he is trying to smash the door down.”
Officials said Thursday that the co-pilot showed a “willingness to destroy this plane,” The Daily Beast reports. He could reportedly be heard breathing until the plane crashed.
The cries of passengers could be heard on the plane’s black box voice recorder, according to officials. Alarms were going off before the plane crashed, but the co-pilot reportedly refused to open the cockpit door.
“Passengers didn’t know what was happening until the last minute,” the French prosecutor said at the press conference.
The passengers reportedly died instantly. The plane crashed into the mountains at about 435 miles per hour.
Officials named the co-pilot as 28-year-old Andreas Lubitz, a German. French officials did not specify his religious or ethnic background and emphasized that investigators do not think the crash was an act of terrorism, but rather a suicide.
Lubitz reportedly input the command to start the plane’s descent after the captain left the cockpit.
When the captain started his mid-flight briefing on the landing of the plane, Lubitz’s reponses reportedly became “curt,” the Associated Press reports.
Segolene Royal, a top government minister whose portfolio includes transport, said on Tuesday that what happened between 10:30 a.m. and 10:31 a.m. is key because air traffic controllers were unable to make contact with the plane during that two minutes.
“To me, it seems very weird: this very long descent at normal speed without any communications, though the weather was absolutely clear,” the official told the Times.
During the rescue effort, investigators found one of two black boxes, and were reportedly analyzing the contents.
The black box voice recorder records audio from four microphones in the cockpit as well as recording all the conversations between the pilots and air traffic controllers.
A senior military official from France noted the conversations between pilots were “very smooth, very cool” during the early portion of the Barcelona-to-Düsseldorf flight.
One of the pilots of the plane had 10 years of experience of flying for Lufthansa, German officials said at a press conference on Tuesday. Officials said the plane had been last checked by technicians on Monday.
Overall, the Airbus A320 has a solid safety record, with only 23 fatal crashes in its service lift before Tuesday’s incident, according to Aviation Safety Net.
Weather conditions were reportedly good at the time of the crash.
“We don’t know yet the reason why one of the guys went out,” the senior military official told the Times. “But what is sure is that at the very end of the flight, the other pilot is alone and does not open the door.”