Cockpit data revealed that the Germanwings co-pilot who crashed Flight 9525 into the French Alps on March 24 may have rehearsed a controlled descent on a previous flight the same day, French investigators said in an interim report Wednesday.
According to the recovered flight data recorder and cockpit voice recorder, the 28-year-old Andres Lubitz fiddled with the plane’s descent settings several times when the pilot was out of the cockpit for a four-and-a-half-minute period.
“Several altitude selections towards 100 feet were recorded during descent on the flight that preceded the accident flight, while the co-pilot was alone in the cockpit,” France’s BEA investigation agency said.
Lubitz tested the settings when air traffic controllers asked to bring the plane down from an altitude of 35,000 feet to 21,000 feet on its way to Barcelona, Spain, from Dusseldorf, Germany.
“[T]he selected altitude decreased to 100 feet for three seconds and then increased to the maximum value of 49,000 feet and stabilized again at 35,000 feet,” the report said.
The crew may not have noticed any changes,the Associated Press reported, because the plane didn’t rapidly descend when Lubitz tried the different altitude settings.
Two hours later, authorities believe Lubitz purposely flew Germanwings Flight 9525, flying from Barcelona to Dusseldorf, into the French Alps. All 150 people on board were killed. Lubitz, who had a history of depression, had locked the pilot out of the cockpit that time.
“The intention was to destroy this place,” French prosecutor Brice Robin said in March.
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