By Sophie Condron
April 2, 2015
Over the past few years, there have been a number of fatal plane crashes, usually due to terrorist actions or mechanical malfunctions. Recently, there was a plane crash where the co-pilot was at fault.
On March 24, 2015 an Airbus 320 crashed into the French Alps. The crash was fatal and all 150 passengers died instantly. The pieces of debris show the impact of the crash.
Upon further investigation, and after one of the two black boxes was found, investigators think the co-pilot was the cause of the crash. A black box is a recorder in the plane can document a crash. Two black boxes are in every plane. Search teams found one of the black boxes, which was a voice recorder. The second black box that contains technical data has yet to be found.
Brice Robin, Marseille prosecutor, told BBC reporters, “We hear [on the black box recording] the pilot ask the co-pilot to take control of the plane and we hear at the same time the sound of a seat moving backwards and the sound of a door closing.”
At that time, the co-pilot had complete control of the plane. This is when he probably turned the plane’s descent auto-pilot on. When the pilot came back, probably from using the restroom, investigators said they could hear the pilot knock on the cockpit door. The co-pilot did not answer. The pilot began to pound on the door, but there was still no answer from the co-pilot.
“Between 09:30:52 and 09:30:55 you can see that the autopilot was manually changed from 38,000ft to 100ft and nine seconds later the aircraft started to descend, probably with the ‘open descent’ autopilot setting,” Fredrik Lindahl, Flightradar24 chief, was quoted by Reuters, a news agency company.
Investigators know that the co-pilot was alive the whole time due to the breathing they could hear on the black box recording up until the time of the crash. The passengers on the plane did not know what was happening until the last few moments when investigators could hear screaming on the recording.
The co-pilot was identified as Andreas Lubitz. He took time off from his pilot training in 2009 for depression treatment. Read more about him here.
After this crash, some airlines have decided to create a policy stating that there must be two crew members in the cockpit at all times to prevent a situation similar to this one. The general public is concerned that not enough was done to identify the co-pilot’s mental illness. Greater airline safety precautions will take place in the future, as well as more extensive mental health screenings.
Right now, the main focus of the investigation is to find the second black box. This will give investigators technical information about the plane. More information about this plane crash is coming out daily.