Horrifying transcript gives timeline of Germanwings plane crash in Alps
The captain of a doomed Germanwings flight yelled, “Open the damn door!” just moments before the aircraft slammed into a mountain in the French Alps, a German newspaper reported Sunday.
Bild said it had read the transcript of the cockpit voice recorder, one of two “black boxes” on the plane, which revealed how Patrick Sonderheimer had desperately tried to get back into the cockpit for eight minutes after his junior colleague, Andreas Lubitz, 27, apparently locked the door and deliberately put the aircraft into descent.
Bild said passengers can be heard screaming in the background as Sonderheimer shouts: “For God’s sake, open the door!” The captain is then heard trying to smash through the heavily reinforced door while shouting: “Open the damn door!” Moments later, the aircraft plowed into a mountain ravine between Digne-les-Bains and Barcelonnette in the southern French Alps, instantly killing all 150 people aboard — 144 passengers and six crew.
The voice recorder also captured Sonderheimer earlier, the newspaper said, telling Lubitz that he was going to the bathroom and that he had not had time to do so before the flight left Barcelona, Spain, for Duesseldorf, Germany.
Germanwings Flight 9525 was just under halfway along its route when Lubitz appeared to have deliberately set the autopilot to automatic descent, causing it to crash into the mountain Tuesday.
German investigators discovered torn-up notes at Lubitz’s home showing that he had been excused from work by his doctor for a period that included the day of the crash.
Lubitz is reported to have been undergoing treatment for depression. German police found medication for psychological conditions and there are suggestions he also had vision problems that would have ended his career and his dream of becoming a captain on long-haul flights.
Germanwings and its parent company, Lufthansa, say they never received a sick note from Lubitz, suggesting he hid his illness from the airline. Last week, Lufthansa Chief Executive Carsten Spohr told journalists that Lubitz had passed all technical, physical and psychological tests and was “100% fit” to fly.
A Lutheran church in Lubitz’s hometown of Montabaur, Germany, held a service Sunday memorializing the crash victims. In an interview with the Associated Press, the pastor said people there stand by Lubitz and his family, despite the compelling evidence that he may have been responsible for the crash.
“The copilot, the family, belong to our community, and we stand by this, and we embrace them and will not hide this, and want to support the family in particular,” the Rev. Michael Dietrich said.
Investigators in Germany are trying to piece together a profile of Lubitz to establish what motive he had for downing the aircraft.
His ex-girlfriend, named only as Maria W., 26, a flight attendant, told Bild that Lubitz had said to her: “One day I’m going to do something that will change the whole system, and everyone will know my name and remember it.”
“I never knew what he meant by that, but now it makes sense,” Bild quoted the young woman as saying.
She added that at night Lubitz was troubled by nightmares and would wake up screaming, “We’re going down!”
Here is a summary of the flight’s timeline, as published in Bild:
The flight is to take off 20 minutes late, and Sonderheimer apologizes for the delay and says the crew will try to make up the time in the air.
Before takeoff, the captain tells Lubitz that he didn’t have time to go to the bathroom before leaving Barcelona. Lubitz tells him he can go anytime.
The plane takes off, and climbs.
10:27 a.m.: The aircraft is at 38,000 feet. The captain asks the copilot to prepare the landing. Lubitz replies “hopefully” and “we’ll see.”
After the check, Lubitz repeats to the captain, “You can go now.”
There is the sound of a seat moving backward. The captain says, “You can take over.”
There is the sound of a door clicking.
10:29 a.m.: Air traffic radar detects that the plane is beginning to descend.
10:32 a.m.: Air traffic controllers contact the plane and receive no answer. Around the same time, an alarm in the cockpit sounds: “Sink rate.”
There follows a bang on the door. The pilot can be heard shouting: “For God’s sake, open the door!” Passengers can be heard screaming.
10:35 a.m.: There is the sound of loud metallic banging as if someone is hitting the cockpit door. The plane is now at 23,000 feet.
10:36-10:37 a.m.: An alarm sounds: “Terrain … pull up.” The plane is at 16,400 feet.
The captain is shouting: “Open the damn door!”
10:38 a.m.: The plane is at about 13,100 feet. Lubitz can be heard breathing.
10:40 a.m.: The sound of what is believed to be the plane’s right wing scraping the mountaintop can be heard. Screams of passengers are the last sounds on the recording.
Willsher is a special correspondent.
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