Lufthansa told of pilot's depression in 2009
BERLIN/LE VERNET, FRANCE
THE German pilot who crashed a plane in the French Alps last week, killing 150 people, told officials at a Lufthansa training school in 2009 that he had gone through a period of severe depression, the airline said on Tuesday.
The statement is potentially damaging for the airline and chief executive Carsten Spohr, who told reporters last week that the carrier knew of no reason why 27-year-old Andreas Lubitz might deliberately crash a plane.
The fact that Lufthansa officials were aware that Lubitz suffered from depression raises questions about its screening process for pilots, as it faces the threat of legal action from relatives of the victims.
Mr Spohr, who was visiting a memorial site near the crash in France, declined to answer a barrage of questions yesterday on what the airline knew of the mental health problems of Lubitz.
He walked away after giving a prepared statement.
Lufthansa earlier said Lubitz broke off his pilot training for a period of several months, but then passed medical checks confirming his fitness to fly.
When Lubitz resumed training in 2009, he provided the flight school with medical documents showing that he had gone through a "previous episode of severe depression", Lufthansa said, citing e-mail correspondence between Lubitz and the flight school.
Duesseldorf state prosecutors said on Monday that Lubitz had been treated for suicidal tendencies before getting his pilot's licence.
Last week, they found torn-up sick notes showing that Lubitz was suffering from an illness that should have grounded him.
Germanwings said it had not received a sick note from Lubitz for the day of the crash. Lubitz had a valid medical certificate at the time of the crash of the Airbus A320 operated by its budget unit, Lufthansa added.
Lufthansa said it had passed the e-mail correspondence and other documents to the Duesseldorf prosecutors after internal investigations.
Meanwhile, French and German media said they have seen a video purportedly showing the final seconds inside the cabin of the doomed airliner, which they said was shot on a mobile phone.
"The scene was so chaotic that it was hard to identify people, but the sounds of the screaming passengers made it perfectly clear that they were aware of what was about to happen to them," said French weekly Paris Match.
People were heard crying "My God" in several languages, the magazine said.
Investigators say the plane's cockpit voice recorder indicated Lubitz locked the captain out of the cockpit and deliberately crashed the plane.
Paris Match said "metallic banging" could be heard more than three times - tallying with reports that the pilot tried to smash down the cockpit door with an axe.
French police poured cold water on the magazine's footage claims, telling CNN the reports were "completely wrong". Marseille prosecutor Brice Robin, one of the lead investigators into the crash, added that anyone with footage "must hand it over immediately to investigators".
REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE