More reports claim Germanwings pilot was locked out of cockpit before crash – Fox News

Posted: Thursday, March 26, 2015

Investigators into the deadly crash of Germanwings Flight 9525 faced more questions Thursday after reports emerged that one of the aircraft’s two pilots was locked out of the cockpit during the final, fatal descent.

Overnight, the Associated Press and AFP news agencies corroborated an initial report by The New York Times that one of the pilots left the cockpit and was unable to return. The AFP report cited additional details from the cockpit voice recorder, which was recovered hours after the crash Tuesday.

AFP reported that one of the cockpit seats was pushed back and the access door opened and closed. Moments later, a source told the agency that knocking could be heard, but there was no conversation between the pilots. The source added that an alarm warning of the plane’s proximity to the ground could be heard just before impact.

The Times report cited a senior military official involved in the investigation who said the knocking grew increasingly frantic as the Airbus 320 plummeted to earth.

“The guy outside is knocking lightly on the door, and there is no answer,” the investigator said. “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.”

Britain’s Daily Telegraph carried a statement from Germanwings responding to the initial Times report that said “At the moment, we do not have information from competent authorities to confirm this story. We are doing everything to get the most information possible and we are not engaging in speculation.”

The reports are a first sketchy description of what happened inside the cockpit during the plane’s final moments, but it still is not clear why one of the pilots left the cockpit or whether it was the captain or first officer. It was also not clear whether a flight attendant entered the cockpit to take the place of the departed pilot, as has been the practice of U.S. airlines since the terror attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

The Wall Street Journal, citing Airbus training materials, reported that many of the company’s jets are fitted with crew-controlled locks designed to prevent unauthorized access to the flight deck. In some planes, the cockpit can be accessed through a keypad code, but pilots can also lock out external access for five minutes or longer by flipping a certain switch in the cockpit.

Neither pilot has been identified by investigators or Lufthansa. However, the airline said the captain had more than 6,000 hours of flying time and been Germanwings pilot since May 2014, having previously flown for Lufthansa and Condor, a German leisure airline. The co-pilot joined Germanwings in September 2013, directly after training, and had flown 630 hours. Lufthansa chief executive Carsten Spohr described both pilots as “experienced and trained.”

All 150 passengers and crew, including three Americans, were killed when the medium-haul plane crashed in the French Alps while traveling to Dusseldorf, Germany from Barcelona. The plane was about halfway through its flight when it descended from a cruising altitude of 38,000 feet to around 6,000 feet in approximately eight minutes. During that time, whoever was in the cockpit did not respond to radio calls from French air traffic controllers, who alerted authorities when the plane disappeared from their radar screens.

The Daily Telegraph, citing the German newspaper Bild, reported that air traffic controllers had tried three times to contact the plane after a final communication from the captain was received at 10:30 a.m. local time. Seconds later, the plane began descending. Bild’s report, which cited a purported leaked copy of a timeline compiled by the controllers, said that attempts were made to contact the plane at 10:31, 10:35, and 10:36, with the last two attempts made on the international distress frequency. At 10:40 a.m., the plane vanished from the radar.

Remi Jouty, the director of France’s aviation accident investigation office, told reporters Wednesday that investigators had been able to extract sounds and voice from the damaged voice recorder, but cautioned “at this stage, we don’t have the slightest explanation or interpretation as to what led this plane to fly down.”

Officials have not formally ruled out any possible cause of the crash, though France’s Interior Minister said early Wednesday that he did not believe terrorism was the likely cause “at the moment.” At his press conference Wednesday, Jouty told reporters that the small pieces of debris from the plane indicated that the jet was intact when it hit the ground and did not explode in midair.

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

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