Germanwings co-pilot a friendly pro who 'dreamed' of flying

26th March 2015, Comments 0 comments

Andreas Lubitz, the co-pilot suspected of deliberately crashing a Germanwings jet, was a life-long flying enthusiast who had passed all the airline's psychological tests and had no known terrorist links.

Lubitz, 28, had flown for Lufthansa's low-cost subsidiary for nearly two years and belonged to a flight club since childhood.

German authorities and Lubitz's employers and neighbours said they had no idea what might have led him to bring down a plane with 149 other people on board in the French Alps on Tuesday.

The head of Lufthansa, parent company of Germanwings, told a news conference that there wasn't "the slightest indication what might have led" to his actions.

"In our worst nightmares we could not have imagined that this kind of tragedy could happen to us here at the company," Carsten Spohr said.

The head of LSC Westerwald flying club, which Lubitz joined as a youth, described the aviator as a guy-next-door type.

"He was just a normal young person, actively engaged in life and not really unusual in any way," Klaus Radke told AFP, calling him "a very skilled professional."

Before the horrific findings of the French investigation emerged, the club had posted a tribute to Lubitz on its website Wednesday, saying he had died doing what he loved.

"He was able to fulfil his dream, the dream he now paid so dearly for with his life," it said, noting he had first piloted a small glider as a teenager.

Lubitz was from the western town of Montabaur and lived with his parents there while keeping a flat in Duesseldorf, a Germanwings hub and the city for which the doomed flight from Barcelona was bound, Montabaur mayor Gabriele Wieland told DPA news agency.

- 'Polite and friendly' -

Neighbours in the small town of 12,500 people said Lubitz had a girlfriend and the couple liked to jog together. He also had a young brother who did not live with him.

On his quiet, neatly-swept residential street, acquaintances of Lubitz said they were stunned by the news.

"I cannot believe it and don't want to believe it. I am absolutely shocked," Johannes Rossbach, 23, told AFP.

"I only saw him occasionally but he was always polite and friendly and was quite physically fit. He went jogging a lot," he said.

"I don't know if he was depressed or sick but I never heard anyone talking about him or his family having any particular problems."

A man in his 50s who gave his name only as Hans-Dieter fought back tears as he said he travelled from a nearby town to see Lubitz's home.

"I wanted to know where the murderer lived," he said.

"He's like the guy in Norway who started shooting people," referring to Anders Behring Breivik, the right-wing extremist who murdered 77 people in 2011.

- 'Psychological suitability' -

Lubitz had worked for Germanwings, a Lufthansa subsidiary, since September 2013 and had 630 hours of flight experience, a Lufthansa spokeswoman said.

According to Spohr, he began training as a pilot in 2008 at the Lufthansa training centre in the northern city of Bremen, where he was admitted after undergoing thorough psychological testing.

He took a break from his training "for a few months" before graduating in 2012 and working for Lufthansa as a flight attendant as part of his preparation, the Lufthansa boss added.

Cockpit employees are selected "very, very carefully" with much attention paid to their "psychological suitability", Spohr, himself a former pilot, assured.

"He was 100 percent airworthy, without reservation."

Germany's interior minister Thomas de Maiziere said Thursday there was no indication of Lubitz having "a terrorist background", echoing comments by French officials.


© 2015 AFP

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