Germanwings was unaware of co-pilot's 'depressive episode'

Berlin, Apr 2: Germanwings said today it was unaware that the co-pilot of its plane which crashed in the French Alps last week had suffered from depression during his pilot training.

Investigators believe co-pilot Andreas Lubitz locked his captain out of the Airbus A320's cockpit and intentionally crashed Flight 9525 from Barcelona to Duesseldorf into a French mountainside on March 24.


All 150 people on board the plane were killed. German airline Lufthansa confirmed yesterday that it knew six years ago that Lubitz had suffered from an episode of "severe depression" before he finished his flight training.

"We didn't know this," said Vanessa Torres, a spokeswoman for Lufthansa subsidiary Germanwings, which hired Lubitz in September 2013.

She declined to explain the discrepancy, citing the ongoing investigation. Torres noted that Lufthansa has said Lubitz held a "fully valid class 1 medical certificate" on the day of the crash.

The news came as Transport Minister Alexander Dobrindt and the German Aviation Association, which represents German airlines, announced the creation of an expert task force to examine what went wrong in the Germanwings crash.

The panel will consider whether changes are needed to cockpit doors or pilot procedures for passing medicals and will discuss "the question of recognizing psychological peculiarities," Dobrindt said.

Aviation association chief Klaus-Peter Siegloch said the task force will work "very quickly" but "it is very important that we do not reach over-hasty conclusions."

"We have no taboos about what the task force will discuss," said Siegloch, adding that any conclusions will be shared with international air safety organizations.

France's air accident investigation agency has already said it will examine cockpit entry and psychological screening procedures. German prosecutors say Lubitz's medical records from before he received his pilot's license referred to "suicidal tendencies" but visits to doctors since then showed no record of any suicidal tendencies or aggression toward others.

The A320 is designed with safeguards to allow emergency entry into the cockpit if a pilot inside is unresponsive. But the override code known to the crew doesn't go into effect if the person inside the cockpit specifically denies entry.

At the crash scene, investigators said Thursday they have found cellphones amid the crash debris but the phones haven't yet been thoroughly examined.

The French magazine Paris-Match and the German tabloid Bild say they have seen a cellphone video from the final moments of Flight 9525. Authorities have said investigators have no such video but didn't rule out the possibility that some videos like that may exist.


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