“This is the most terrible event in the company’s history”

Lufthansa CEO says copilot had “impeccable” attitude and employment record The 28-year-old German, Andreas Lubitz, had also passed all psychological tests

Lufthansa CEO Carsten Spohr at the press conference on Thursday.
Lufthansa CEO Carsten Spohr at the press conference on Thursday.ROBERTO PFEIL (AFP)

The CEO of Lufthansa Group, Carsten Spohr, told reporters in Cologne on Thursday that not in his “worst nightmares” could he have imagined the actions of Andreas Lubitz, the copilot who appears to have deliberately crashed a Germanwings flight into a mountain in the French Alps on Tuesday, killing all 150 people on board.

“I can only repeat what I have said over the last few days,” said Spohr. “We are really deeply shocked and I wouldn’t not have been able to imagine that the situation would have got even worse.”

The press conference – at which Thomas Winkleman, the managing director of Lufthansa’s budget airline, also appeared – was held after the French prosecutor in charge of the investigation into the crash announced on Thursday morning that the copilot on the doomed flight between Barcelona and Düsseldorf had locked the pilot out of the cockpit, and deliberately flown the Airbus A320 into a mountainside.

“This is by far the most terrible event in the company’s history,” said Spohr.

The chairman went on to explain that the copilot, a 28-year-old German named Andreas Lubitz, had an “impeccable” attitude and employment record at the company, and had passed all of the psychological testing to which pilots are submitted.

The Lufthansa chairman explained that after the 9/11 attacks in the United States, the cockpit doors on their fleet had been reinforced to prevent “unwanted access.” He also pointed out that pilots can use a code to enter the cockpit should their colleague be incapacitated, but that this had a five-minute override switch controlled from inside. He explained that he was unaware whether this switch had been activated in the case of the doomed flight.

“It doesn’t matter how many security measures are in place at a company,” said Spohr. “An individual, particular and isolated case like this one cannot be avoided.”

The airline chiefs also explained on Thursday that Lubitz had interrupted his training six years ago for several months, but did not explain why. The break in his career, they added, was not unusual.

Meanwhile, the German interior minister, Thomas de Maiziere, stated on Thursday that the Germanwings copilot “had no record of terrorist activities.”

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