Germanwings pilot pleads: 'Open the damn door' in desperate attempt to re-enter cockpit

Released transcripts reveal Andreas Lubitz urging captain to go on bathroom break, hand over controls of cockpit.

March 29, 2015 12:30
2 minute read.

An aircraft of Lufthansa's German low-cost carrier Germanwings.. (photo credit: REUTERS)


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Black box transcripts from last week's deadly Germanwings flight that left 150 passengers and crew members dead were released Sunday by the German Bild tabloid, revealing the desperate pleas of captain Patrick Sondheimer to co-pilot-turned-mass-murderer Andreas Lubitz, to "open the damn door," in an effort to re-gain control of the cockpit and save the aircraft and its passengers up until the moment of doom.

The released transcript reveals the flight starting off ordinarily, with Sondheimer apologizing to passengers for a 26-minute delay in Barcelona pre-takeoff. The recording then transitions to a 20-minute conversation between the two-co-pilots, during which Lubitz encourages and even urges Sondheimer to feel free to leave the cockpit for a bathroom break, and give him reign over the cockpit's controls.

At 10:27 a.m., as the aircraft reached cruising altitude and Sondheimer instructed his co-pilot to prepare for landing in Germany's Dusseldorf, Lubitz's replies turned from ordinary to what French prosecutors described as "laconic," using phrases such as "hopefully," and "we'll see" when addressing what should have been the aircraft's safe landing at its designated destination.

A few minutes later, after checks for landing, Sondheimer leaves the cockpit, handing over the controls to Lubitz. The snap of a door can be heard promptly as he leaves his post.

In the next few minutes, the aircraft descends in altitude, an alarm signal sounding "sink rate," can be heard, and air traffic controllers are greeted by silence, no response, when trying to contact the cockpit.

The recordings culminate shortly after when Sondheimer returns and attempt to re-enter the cockpit. He is heard pounding on the door, yelling "For God's sake, open the door!," followed by "open the goddamn door!" as passengers in the background are heard screaming, newly aware of the aircraft's sudden descent. Lubitz' breathing can be heard on the recording, yet he remains silent, ignoring the pleas of both Sondheimer and the aircraft controllers, along with the screams of the frightened passengers.

The recording ends with the screaming of passengers as the aircraft makes initial impact with the French Alps mountainside, bringing about the instant death of all on board.

A senior investigator in the case said 27-year-old Lubitz was treated by several neurologists and psychiatrists for mental illness.

A woman purported to be his ex-girlfriend told Bild on Saturday that she believes Lubitz was suffering from psychiatric problems before the crash, speaking of his erratic, unpredictable behavior characterized by a sudden loss of temper and shouting.

She said he once told her that one day he would "do something" and then "everyone will know my name."

Prosecutors in the case found doctor's notes in Lubitz's personal belongings which could have kept him off work on the day of the fateful crash of Flight 4U9525 - yet they were found ripped up in his home, destroyed, their recommendations gone ignored.

The New York Times on Saturday quoted officials as saying Lubitz had also sought treatment for vision problems that may have jeopardized his ability to work as a pilot. Further investigations are under way.

German state prosecutors and police spokesmen declined to comment on the media reports, saying that there would be no official statements on the case before Monday.

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