Andreas Lubitz, the Germanwings co-pilot who deliberately crashed an Airbus A320 carrying 150 people into the French Alps in March after locking the pilot out of the cockpit, may have rehearsed the tragedy the very same day on the outbound flight from Düsseldorf to Barcelona. The report (embedded below), indicates that Lubitz put the flight into a controlled descent on several occasions, selecting an altitude of 100 ft during times when the audio from the voice recorder suggests the Captain had left the cockpit.
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From the report:
All of the data from the previous flight, from Düsseldorf to Barcelona, was recorded on the FDR. The recordings from the CVR included the last 50 minutes of this flight. Synchronization of these recordings and the radio communications with the Bordeaux en-route control centre with which the crew was in contact, was performed based on the same principle as for the accident flight.
On the previous flight, the following facts can be noted:
- at 7 h 19 min 59, noises like those of the cockpit door opening then closing were recorded and corresponded to when the Captain left the cockpit; the aeroplane was then at cruise speed at flight level FL370 (37,000 ft);
- at 7 h 20 min 29, the flight was transferred to the Bordeaux en-route control centre and the crew was instructed to descend to flight level FL350 (35,000 ft), an instruction read back by the co-pilot;
- at 7 h 20 min 32, the aircraft was put into a descent to flight level FL350 , selected a few seconds earlier;
- at 7 h 20 min 50, the selected altitude decreased to 100 ft for three seconds and then increased to the maximum value of 49,000 ft and stabilized again at 35,000 ft;
- at 7 h 21 min 10, the Bordeaux control centre gave the crew the instruction to continue the descent to flight level FL210;
- at 7 h 21 min 16, the selected altitude was 21,000 ft; from 7 h 22 min 27, the selected altitude was 100 feet most of the time and changed several times until it stabilized at 25,000 ft at 7 h 24 min 13;
- at 7 h 24 min 15, the buzzer to request access to the cockpit was recorded;
- at 7 h 24 min 29 noises like those of the unlocking of the cockpit door then its opening was recorded and corresponded to the Captain’s return to the cockpit.
The following graphic shows the erratic altitude settings corresponding to the Captain's entry and exit from the cockpit:
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As you can infer from the above, it's certainly not out of the question that Lubitz in fact intended to crash the previous flight, as the sequence of events seems to indicate that whenever the Captain wasn't present, the plane was put into an unjustified controlled descent. Whether or not Lubitz's decision to let the Captain back into the cockpit at the 7:24 mark on the voice recorder indicates that the outbound flight was being used a test run or, more chillingly, indicates that at that particular moment, Lubitz simply lost his nerve, is an open question.