Lufthansa says Germanwings pilot told flight school of his depression

Lufthansa says Germanwings pilot told flight school of his depression
French disaster response workers on Tuesday unfurl flags representing some of the 18 nations that lost citizens in the March 24 crash of Germanwings flight 9525. (Claude Paris / Associated Press)

The young Germanwings pilot accused of having deliberately crashed an Airbus A320 a week ago, killing all 150 people on board, had informed his flight school in 2009 of an "episode of severe depression," Lufthansa said in a statement issued Tuesday.

Lufthansa said it had submitted relevant documents to crash investigators in Duesseldorf on the reports made by Germanwings Flight 9525 copilot Andreas Lubitz to the Lufthansa flight school in Bremen "to ensure a swift and seamless clarification" of what the airline knew about the man's mental health and when it knew it.


Carsten Spohr, Lufthansa chief executive, had said that medical privacy laws prevented the parent airline from disclosing information about the grounds for Lubitz's interruption of his flight training in 2009.

Lubitz took a break of "several months," the airline said in its disclosure of the copilot's previous depression incident. But the statement said Lubitz had subsequently been issued medical certification of his fitness to fly.

The records handed to investigators include email correspondence between Lubitz and the Flight Training Pilot School, including "medical documents he submitted in connection with resuming his flight training, about a 'previous episode of severe depression,'" the airline statement said.

Analysis of the cockpit voice recorder recovered shortly after the March 24 crash revealed that Lubitz had suggested that flight captain Patrick Sondenheimer take a bathroom break once the aircraft reached cruising altitude. Investigators believe he then locked him out of the flight deck and overrode the autopilot setting to send the aircraft into its fatal descent.

The recorder captured Sondenheimer's increasingly frantic appeals to Lubitz to unlock the cockpit door, until the plane crashed at more than 400 mph. The Airbus shattered on impact, blasting wreckage and body parts across a wide area.

The apparently deliberate crashing of the plane has prompted a major review of onboard security procedures and pilot screening by airlines worldwide.

Earlier Tuesday, Lufthansa said its insurer, Allianz, had set aside $300 million to "deal with all costs arising in connection with the crash," Lufthansa spokeswoman Kerstin Lau said.

Lufthansa also announced that the company has canceled proposed celebrations of its 60th anniversary on April 15 "out of respect for the crash victims of flight 4U9525."

"Instead of the originally planned anniversary event, Lufthansa will provide a live broadcast for its employees of the official state ceremony in the Cologne Cathedral on the 17th of April 2015, where the bereaved families and friends will gather to remember the victims."

The victims were from 18 countries, including Germany, Spain, Britain, the United States and Israel.

Immediate assistance of $53,500 has been offered for each victim, in addition to whatever final compensation is agreed with victims' families. The money will be paid out "in the coming few days," Lufthansa spokesman  Thomas Jachnow said.

The weekly news magazine Der Spiegel reported in its online edition that Lufthansa CEO Spohr is set to visit the crash site in the French Alps on Wednesday, accompanied by Germanwings CEO Thomas Winkelmann.

Special correspondent Hassan reported from Berlin and Times staff writer Williams from Los Angeles

Follow @cjwilliamslat for the latest international news 24/7