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Germanwings Airbus A320-211 plane crash
Barcelonnette, France

Germanwings Airbus A320-211 plane crash - Barcelonnette, France

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Barcelonnette, FranceThe A320-200 operated by Germanwings took off from Barcelona, Spain, for a passenger flight to Dusseldorf, Germany. 144 passengers and 6 crewmembers were onboard. The plane was enroute at FL380 about 30nm southeast of Marseille (France) when the aircraft initiated a rapid descent and crash in the Alps, about 12nm southwest of Barcelonnette (France), 75nm northeast of Marseille. The 150 people onboard were killed.

The aircraft reached its cruising altitude at FL380. A few minutes later the aircraft initiated a descend. It descended from FL380 through FL110 in 8 minutes (average rate of descent 3375 ft/min). The last radar position recorded by French ATC was at 6175 feet MSL on a northeasterly heading of 26 degrees true. Mountains rise up to 8900 feet about 1NM north of the last reported aircraft position. The aircraft impacted ground at very high speed (at about 500 km/h) and was completely destroyed. Both CVR and DFDR (black boxes) were recovered.

The first officer was alone in the cockpit when the plane started the descent, until the crash. The captain left the cockpit for a toilet break. The first officer was not talking, only normal breathing could be heard after the captain departed the cockpit. The captain was not able to get back into the cockpit. The first officer initiated a rapid descent, there was no reason to initiate the rapid descent, there was no reason to not communicate with air traffic control, and there was no reason why the door wouldn't open. Breathing of the first officer is not consistent with someone suffering a heart attack or other health issue. Other than that there is absolute silence in the cockpit, screams are heard only in the last few moments. There were no words heard during the last 10 minutes of the flight.

Investigations showed that the pilot in the cockpit used the autopilot to descend the aircraft down to 100 feet, on several occasions the speed of the aircraft was adjusted during the descent.

Investigators stated the first officer deliberately crashed the aircraft, and kept locked the cockpit door to avoid the captain coming back in the cockpit.

Cockpit door functioning

Since Septeber 11th 2001 terrorist attacks, all passangers aircraft must be fitted with a reinforced cockpit door between the passenger cabin and the cockpit. When somebody wish to enter the cockpit, he must enter a code on a keypad located next to the door. After this code is entered, the pilot in the cockpit receives a signal and has the ability to open the door or lock the door. If the pilot in the cockpit does not react at all, the cockpit door opens automatically. If the pilot in the cockpit selects to lock the door, the door remains locked for 5 minutes.

Within the entire Lufthansa group there is no standard operating procedure requiring another member of the (cabin) crew to enter the cockpit if one of the pilots leaves the cockpit. The captain was permitted to leave the cockpit in cruise flight, e.g. for a toilet break.

Aircraft similar to the one which crashed (Airbus A320-211)
Aircraft similar to the one which crashed (Airbus A320-211)
Barcelonnette, France
Barcelonnette, France (Red dot on map)

Photos of the Germanwings Airbus A320 crash