Germanwings flight crash - deliberate?

As officials struggled Wednesday to explain why a jet with 150 people on board crashed in relatively clear skies, an investigator said evidence from a cockpit voice recorder indicated one pilot left the cockpit before the plane’s descent and was unable to get back in.

A senior military official involved in the investigation described “very smooth, very cool” conversation between the pilots during the early part of the flight from Barcelona to Düsseldorf. Then the audio indicated that one of the pilots left the cockpit and could not re-enter.

“The guy outside is knocking lightly on the door and there is no answer,” the investigator said. “And then he hits the door stronger and no answer. There is never an answer.”

He said, “You can hear he is trying to smash the door down.”

Pilot suicide? Maybe that’s the reason they haven’t released pilot names yet.

Too early to say, but one pilot locked out of the cockpit is very ominous. I lean towards deliberate. If true, this is a deeply disturbing trend. I have no idea how airlines will respond.

It’s certainly looking that way. I feel for pilots; not only are they now going to be subject to a huge amount of scrutiny and suspicion, they’ll probably be terrified to take bathroom breaks. I hope it ends up being something more benign, like the co-pilot had a stroke or something though I doubt that would account for the controlled descent.

For those of you who aren’t regular flyers: In the United States, when a pilot exits the cockpit, a flight attendant takes his place in the cockpit. Thus, one pilot is never alone. The flight attendant then opens the door again (from the inside) when the pilot is ready to re-enter.

I would hope German airlines have a similar procedure, but I don’t know.

Too early to say if it’s a deliberate act, but if that report is accurate, combined with the flight path and radio silence… very worrisome possibility.

My understanding is that was initiated after 9/11, so maybe not.

So it’s just come out thru the listening of the CVR that one of the pilots left the cockpit, and was then locked out. He can be heard first knocking on, then banging on, and finally trying to break down the cockpit door, all with no response. This means basically one thing to me: Pilot suicide.

Normally I don’t like to jump to conclusions but I can’t think of another too likely scenario in this case. The cockpit is not airtight so how could only the pilot become incapacitated so quickly via decompression etc.? Plus there’s no sound of this, or of a struggle so it wasn’t a terrorist hijacking/suicide.

Why couldn’t it have just been a heart attack or stroke?

A bird strike could incapacitate a pilot and that’s happened before. The highest known bird strike was at 37,000 feet. There would be obvious nose on the recorder if that happened.

Pilots could die of a heart attack. That’s also happened. However. the plane appeared to fly under controlled descent.

Because the pilot would not have descended at 3500 fpm and slowed the plane down in the process.

Hail Ants, I merged your thread with the existing thread on the same topic.

The pilot who wants to reenter can enter a code and there is a delay when the pilot inside can flip a switch to keep the door locked if he doesn’t want the door opened; if that’s not done the door unlocks. It’s a universal rule that there must always be two people in the cockpit (i.e., flight attendant.)

This type of plane has a “side-stick” (like a joystick) instead of a center mounted “wheel”. It would be very hard to slump to the side and hit the stick just right to start the descent and not vary the heading by even a single degree.

Why can’t the lavatory be part of a bigger enclosure area sealed off by hardened door? In other words, no door between cockpit and lavatory?


A dedicated bathroom for two people, that wouldn’t even be used on many short/medium flights? Not to mention that certain planes have the gangway entry door just aft of the cockpit; there’s not enough room to expand the cockpit in them.

ETA: The long version of what desertmonk said.

What I mean is having a door between the lavatory/cockpit “tunnel” area and the passenger cabin, not putting a new lavatory in a jammed cockpit.

As far as I can remember and mentioned in the GQ thread, the rules are that the flight attendants have to stand guard outside the cockpit. Not very useful if the remaining pilot decides to lock the door by ignoring or just pushing the attendant aside, and then it seems to me that it would be a rule that is easy to get around.

I would also think that makes sense as having an air attendant inside the cockpit would also increase the risks, not only on security but by attendants bumping into things in the cockpit or making other mistakes.

So if it was pilot murder/suicide, is the suggestion that his plan was to wait until the other pilot left for the lavatory, then lock the door and fly the plane into the ground? First of all, why didn’t a flight attendant go in there while the other pilot was in the lav? I suppose I’m succumbing to stereotypes here, but I find it nearly impossible to believe that a German airline would not have this procedure. And second, how could the pilot know for sure that the other would leave the cockpit at any point? Barcelona to Dusseldorf is about 2 hours, and it is perfectly feasible for someone to not need a toilet for that span.

Strokes come in lots of varieties, a moderate level event could disorient someone enough to lock onto ‘I’ve just gotta get the hell down.’