The Germanwings Airbus flight that crashed on Monday killing all 150 people on board did not experience a mechanical malfunction; it was reportedly taken down deliberately:
As officials struggled Wednesday to explain why a jet with 150 people on board crashed amid a relatively clear sky, an investigator said evidence from a cockpit voice recorder indicated one pilot left the cockpit before the plane’s descent and was unable to get back in.
A senior French military official involved in the investigation described a “very smooth, very cool” conversation between the pilots during the early part of the flight from Barcelona, Spain, to Düsseldorf, Germany. Then the audio indicated that one of the pilots left the cockpit and could not re-enter.
“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.”
Absolutely chilling. The captain who reportedly left the cockpit to use the restroom was locked out, despite his best efforts to regain entry. This would explain why the plane, after it reached cruising altitude, slowly began descending over an eight-minute period before hitting the mountain. The co-pilot simply crashed it on purpose.
But was this an act of terrorism? Too soon to speculate but the co-pilot was not believed to be on any watch lists:
A French prosecutor said the co-pilot of the Germanwings airliner who intentionally crashed the jet into the Alps Tuesday was a German national who was not on any terrorist watch list. …
Lubitz said nothing after the pilot left the cabin and was alive until the plane crashed, Robin said. He stopped short of calling the incident "terrorism" or "suicide."
This terrible and tragic incident raises a number of questions. Why was a man, who obviously was insane, given clearance to co-pilot a commercial jetliner? That is to say, was there anything in his background that was suspicious or suggested he could do something so evil? And more broadly: Isn't it time to rethink the newly implemented cockpit safety protections that were put in place after 9/11?
A video produced by Airbus, maker of the A320 passenger jet used on the Germanwings flight, shows how the cockpit security system was designed in 2002, after the Sept. 11 terror attacks. It shows that flight crew members in the cabin can access the cockpit with an [sic] code to open the door, but it doesn't deal with the possibility of what would happen if one of the pilots deliberately tries to lock out the other.
On the Airbus, like virtually every other commercial passenger jet since 9/11, the pilot or whoever has control of the cockpit has the ultimate override power to prevent others from entering from the plane's cabin.
Did the co-pilot wait with bated breath for the captain to leave the cockpit before carrying out his deranged and deadly plan? Or did he crash the flight impulsively and on a whim? Details remain sparse at this time.
Stay tuned for updates.
UPDATE: Three Americans died in the crash.
UPDATE: The co-pilot has been identified and WaPo has more information about him:
Co-pilot Andreas Lubitz was silent as Germanwings Flight 9525 from Barcelona to Dusseldorf descended for eight minutes before crashing in the French Alps on Tuesday, authorities said. Lubitz, identified by a French prosecutor as the co-pilot of the Airbus A320, appeared to want to “destroy the plane” in the deadly Alpine crash that killed 150 people. …
Lubitz started working for Lufthansa’s budget carrier Germanwings in September 2013, immediately after completing training at Lufthansa’s Bremen facility. He had 630 hours of flight experience, a Lufthansa spokesperson confirmed to AFP.
UPDATE: It's worth noting that U.S. federal law mandates two people must be in the cockpit at all times.