Germanwings crash probe turns on 'depressed' co-pilot

The Germanwings co-pilot who flew his Airbus into a French mountainside, killing all 150 aboard, suffered serious depression, a German newspaper reported, raising new questions over how he was cleared to fly.

AFP| Updated: Mar 27, 2015, 16:50 PM IST

Montabaur: The Germanwings co-pilot who flew his Airbus into a French mountainside, killing all 150 aboard, suffered serious depression, a German newspaper reported, raising new questions over how he was cleared to fly.

The black box voice recorder shows that Andreas Lubitz locked his captain out of the cockpit on Tuesday and deliberately sent Flight 4U 9525 into the Alps, French officials say, in what appears to have been an act of suicide and mass murder.

Initial portraits of the co-pilot painted a well-liked man, a fitness fanatic who lived with his parents in a leafy, upscale street in the west German town of Montabaur. But a troubled man hid behind that guy-next-door image, said by German officials to be 27.

The co-pilot sought psychiatric help for "a bout of heavy depression" in 2009 and was still getting assistance from doctors, Bild daily said, quoting documents from Germany's air transport regulator Luftfahrtbundesamt (LBA).

He was still receiving "regular, individualised medical" treatment, Bild reported, adding that Germanwings' parent company Lufthansa had transmitted this information to the LBA.

Lufthansa CEO Carsten Spohr said that Lubitz had suspended his pilot training, which began in 2008, "for a certain period", before restarting and qualifying for the Airbus A320 in 2013.

According to Bild, those setbacks were linked to "depressions and anxiety attacks".

The pilot's records were due to be examined by experts in Germany Friday before being handed to French investigators, Bild reported.

German police combed for clues in an apartment Lubitz used with his girlfriend in Duesseldorf, but spokesman Marcel Fiebig told AFP on Friday there was no "smoking gun".

Searches were also made at his parents' house. The street was cordoned off as officers wearing gloves emerged with boxes, bags and briefcases.

Lubitz locked himself into the cockpit when the captain went out to use the toilet, then refused his colleague's increasingly desperate attempts to get him to reopen the door, French prosecutors say.

According to Bild, the captain even tried using an axe to break through as the plane was sent into its fatal dive by Lubitz.

This could not be immediately confirmed, but a spokesman for Germanwings told Bild that an axe was standard emergency equipment on board the aircraft.

The tragedy has already prompted a shake-up of safety rules at airlines.