- Lubitz tells captain Patrick Sondheimer he can go to the toilet at any time
- Tells the captain he will take over controls and later says ‘you can go now’
- Shortly afterwards there is loud bang, like someone trying to enter cockpit
- Sondheimer yells: ‘For God’s sake, open the door!’ and passengers scream
Dramatic recordings from the Germanwings flight’s black box have revealed the captain’s desperate attempts to break into the cockpit to regain control of the plane.
According to transcripts published today, captain Patrick Sondheimer screamed ‘Open the goddamn door!’ as his killer co-pilot Andreas Lubitz deliberately flew the aircraft into an Alpine ravine after he had left to go to the toilet.
Yesterday, it was revealed that Lubitz was living ‘on the edge’ because he feared that his deteriorating blurred vision would cost him his pilot’s licence.
Lubitz is believed to have locked his captain out after the senior officer left the flight deck, and used the flight managing system to put the plane into a descent, something that can only be done manually – and deliberately.
A transcript published in today’s edition of the German newspaper Bild, reveals that the chilling recording starts with captain Sondheimer apologising to passengers for a 26-minute delay in Barcelona, and promising to make up the time on the flight to Dusseldorf.
In the next 20 minutes, Sondheimer converses with co-pilot Andreas Lubitz, who tells him he can go to the toilet at any time and he will take over the controls, noting that the pilot didn’t go to the lavatory in Barcelona.
At 10.27am, the airliner reaches its cruising altitude of 38,000ft. The pilot prompts his first officer to prepare for the landing in Dusseldorf.
The French prosecutors described Lubitz’s replies as ‘laconic’, and he is heard using words such as ‘hopefully’ and ‘we’ll see’.
After the checks for landing, Lubitz says to Sondheimer again: ‘You can go now.’
The pilot lets another two minutes elapse, then he says to Lubitz: ‘You can take over.’
There is the sound of a seat being pushed back and the snap of a door.
At 10.29am the flight radar monitors the plane descending.
At 10.30am it is down by 316ft, and just a minute later, it is down 1,800ft. At 10.32am air traffic controllers try to contact the aircraft, but get no response.
In the plane, the automatic alarm signal ‘Sink Rate’ sounds almost at the same time, according to the voice recorder.
Shortly afterwards there is a loud bang, which sounds like someone trying to enter the cockpit. Sondheimer yells: ‘For God’s sake, open the door!’
In the background, passengers can be heard screaming.
At 10.35am ‘loud, metallic banging against the cockpit door’ is heard again, according to the French authorities. The jet is still 7,000ft above the ground.
About 90 seconds later there is a new warning message – ‘Ground! Pull up! Pull up!’
The pilot is heard shouting: ‘Open the goddamn door!’
At 10.38am, with its engines racing, the aircraft is on a north-east course over the French Alps. The breathing of Lubitz can be heard in the cockpit but he says nothing.
Access to the cockpit door on the Germanwings Airbus A320 (like the one above) can be disabled from inside the flight deck to prevent hijacking
At 10.40am the aircraft hits the mountainside with its right wing. The last sounds are more screams from passengers.
It is believed that Sondheimer resorted to using a crowbar to try and get through the armoured panel as the plane plunged fatally towards the Alps.
German newspaper Bild yesterday reported that he had attempted to use an axe, and a Germanwings spokesman confirmed that such a tool was on board the aircraft.
But the only axe on the plane would have been in the cockpit, meaning it was out of reach of the captain.
It has emerged that Lubitz once planned to marry his long-term girlfriend but she broke off the relationship because his Jekyll and Hyde personality left her fearing for her safety, it was claimed.
The woman, named as teacher Kathrin Goldbach, is understood to have called time on Lubitz’s increasingly erratic and controlling behaviour just weeks before the Germanwings crash.
Reports emerged that police searching the pilot’s flat had found a ‘small mountain of pills’ and he had apparently been refusing to take his antidepressants medication.
Miss Goldbach still lived with Lubitz, 27, but it is understood she was on the lookout for a flat after being driven away by his need to be in charge. He even tried to tell her what to wear, friends said.
While outwardly confident, his hidden insecurity demanded constant attention – which led him to betray Kathrin with a five-month fling with a Germanwings stewardess conducted in cheap hotels.
But she, too, is believed to have ended her relationship after growing fearful of the ‘tormented and erratic’ Lubitz.
At an extraordinary press conference, Marseille prosecutor Brice Robin gave a disturbing account of the cockpit voice recordings extracted from black box. He said Lubitz locked his captain out after the senior officer left the flight deck.
He said: ‘The intention was to destroy the plane. Death was instant. The plane hit the mountain at 700kmh (430mph).
‘I don’t think that the passengers realised what was happening until the last moments because on the recording you only hear the screams in the final seconds’.
Referring to Lubitz, Mr Robin said: ‘He did this for a reason which we don’t know why, but we can only deduct that he destroyed this plane. We have asked for information from the German investigation on both his profession and personal background’.
Mr Robin said he had no known links with terrorism, adding: ‘There is no reason to suspect a terrorist attack.’
And asked whether he believed the crash that killed 150 people was the result of suicide, he said: ‘People who commit suicide usually do so alone… I don’t call it a suicide.’
Mr Robin, who had earlier briefed the families of the dead – and separately those of both pilots – said the screams of passengers aware of their fate could be heard in the final seconds of the recording.
It also emerged that his parents only discovered that their son was a mass murderer just minutes before the bombshell press conference by prosecutors in Marseille.
His mother, a piano teacher, and father, a successful businessman, were understood to be in the French city at the time of the announcement, but kept separate from the victims’ relatives.
Their whereabouts are now unknown, but it is believed they are being questioned by police.
The couple’s £400,00 two-storey detached home in Montabaur, a town 40 miles from Bonn where Lubitz is thought to have grown up, was also searched by detectives.
As a child, Lubitz is said to have always wanted to be a pilot and covered his bedroom walls with pictures of planes and collected model aircraft.