Andreas Lubitz, the co-pilot of Germanwings flight 4U 9525 that crashed in the French Alps on March 24, appeared to want to “destroy the plane”, officials said.
Marseille prosecutor Brice Robin, citing information from the “black box” voice recorder, said co-pilot Andreas Lubitz was alone in the cockpit.
He intentionally started a descent while the pilot was locked out.
Brice Robin said there was “absolute silence in the cockpit” as the pilot fought to re-enter it.
He said air traffic controllers made repeated attempts to contact the aircraft, but to no avail. Passengers could be heard screaming just before the crash, he added.
Details are emerging of Andreas Lubitz’s past – although his apparent motives for causing the crash remain a mystery.
Andreas Lubitz, 28, had undergone intensive training and “was 100% fit to fly without any caveats”, according to Carsten Spohr, the head of Lufthansa, the German carrier that owns Germanwings.
Carsten Spohr said Andreas Lubitz’s training had been interrupted briefly six years ago but was resumed after “the suitability of the candidate was re-established”.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel told reporters that Andreas Lubitz’s apparent actions had given the tragedy a “new, simply incomprehensible dimension”.
The Airbus 320 from Barcelona to Duesseldorf hit a mountain, killing all 144 passengers and six crew, after an eight-minute descent.
“We hear the pilot ask the co-pilot to take control of the plane and we hear at the same time the sound of a seat moving backwards and the sound of a door closing,” Brice Robin told reporters.
He said the pilot, named in the German media as Patrick S, had probably gone to the toilet.
“At that moment, the co-pilot is controlling the plane by himself. While he is alone, the co-pilot presses the buttons of the flight monitoring system to put into action the descent of the aeroplane.
“He operated this button for a reason we don’t know yet, but it appears that the reason was to destroy this plane.”
Andreas Lubitz was alive until the final impact, the prosecutor said.
Brice Robin said “the most plausible interpretation” was that the co-pilot had deliberately barred the pilot from re-entering the cockpit.
He added that Andreas Lubitz was “not known by us” to have any links to extremism or terrorism.
Lufthansa has arranged two special flights for families and friends on March 26 – one from Barcelona and one from Duesseldorf – to Marseille, and both groups will travel on by road. Separately, some relatives who did not want to fly are travelling by bus from Barcelona.
The second “black box” – that records flight data – has still not been found.
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