The Slatest

Germanwings Co-Pilot Apparently Practiced Descent on Earlier Flight

A helicopter photo of the Flight 4U 9525 crash site in France.

Pool/Lionel Bonaventure/Reuters

Germanwings co-pilot Andreas Lubitz altered descent settings in an unusual manner on a Dusseldorf-to-Barcelona flight conducted immediately prior to—and operated by the same crew as—the fatal Flight 4U 9525 on March 24, French authorities say. From the New York Times:

The initial findings by the Bureau of Investigations and Analyses, known by its French abbreviation B.E.A., show that the co-pilot repeatedly set the Germanwings plane’s altitude to 100 feet during its outbound flight to Barcelona, Spain, from Düsseldorf, Germany, on March 24.


The maneuvers, which were captured by the plane’s flight data recorder, took place while the flight’s captain had left the cockpit temporarily.

In the words of the AP, “it would be highly unusual for a pilot to repeatedly set a plane for such a low altitude for no apparent reason.” Air traffic controllers and other Germanwings crew members didn’t notice Lubitz’s odd manipulations of the altitude settings because they took place during an otherwise normal planned descent, authorities suggested.

The new findings bolster the many pieces of existing evidence that suggest Lubitz intentionally crashed Flight 4U 9525.

“French prosecutors are widely expected to move ahead with a criminal indictment” for negligence in the case, the Times says, though it’s not clear whether such a move would target specific individuals or be filed against Germanwings and/or its parent company, Lufthansa.

Read more of Slate’s coverage of the Germanwings crash.