PHOENIX (AP) — The co-pilot who authorities believe intentionally crashed an airplane into the French Alps, killing all 150 people on board, honed his flying skills early in his aviation career in Arizona.
Lufthansa Group said Thursday that 27-year-old Andreas Lubitz trained in Bremen, Germany, and Phoenix starting in 2008.
A Facebook page bearing his name lists Phoenix Goodyear Airport among his interests. The airport leases space to Airline Training Center Arizona, a Lufthansa-owned training facility. Here are some questions and answers about the facility and Arizona's role in the aviation training industry:
WHAT TRAINING IS OFFERED AT THE CENTER?
The Airline Training Center Arizona offers a program that primarily caters to student pilots from Europe and Asia. Lufthansa German Airlines established the program in Goodyear in 1970, according to the facility's website.
Brent Bowen, dean of the College of Aviation at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Prescott, says the programs specialize in training people with no experience to become certified pilots. He said students who complete the ATCA training would then likely go back to Germany and do flight-training in a simulator of the aircraft they were going to be assigned to.
The ATCA campus, which lies roughly 20 miles west of Phoenix, offers furnished dormitories, a swimming pool, fitness room and tennis court. A woman who answered the telephone at the campus administrative office Thursday said the school would not be making a statement and abruptly hung up.
WHAT MAKES ARIZONA A POPULAR LOCATION FOR PILOT TRAINING?
At least 25 federally approved pilot schools operate in Arizona, according to the Federal Aviation Administration. Bowen said the number of sunny days and the open air space are what draw aviation companies to pilots train here. The clear weather brings more flight opportunities throughout the year.
He also cited the variety of the landscape. Student pilots can fly in Phoenix as well as experience navigating clouds and higher altitude up north in Flagstaff. Weather and cost are big draws for European students especially, Bowen said.
"Flight training there is so terribly expensive and the airspace is so congested and the weather is so bad, it doesn't make sense from a cost-benefit perspective to do training there," Bowen said. "In Europe, you pay a fee for everything."
WHAT IS THE CO-PILOT'S TRAINING HISTORY?
Lubitz learned to fly at the LSC Westerwald e.V glider club in a sleek white ASK-21 two-seat glider. Club members remember him when he first showed up there as a 14- or 15-year-old saying he wanted to learn to fly. After obtaining his glider pilot's license as a teenager, he was accepted as a Lufthansa trainee after finishing the tough German preparatory school at the town's Mons-Tabor High School.
After completing his training, Lubitz spent an 11-month waiting period working as a flight attendant before becoming a co-pilot on the Germanwings A320 fleet. After starting as a co-pilot with Germanwings in September 2013, Lubitz was reportedly upbeat when he returned to the club to update his glider pilots' license with about 20 takeoffs.
Lubitz had logged 630 hours' flight time by the day of the crash, the airline said. French prosecutors said Lubitz locked his co-pilot out of the cockpit of Germanwings Flight 9525 on Tuesday before the jet dove into the mountainside.