DUSSELDORF, Germany (AFP) — The co-pilot who crashed a passenger jet into the French Alps, killing all 150 aboard, worried “health problems” would dash his dreams and vowed one day to do something to “change the whole system,” an ex-girlfriend told a German newspaper.
The 26-year-old woman, identified only as Maria W., recalled in an interview with the mass-circulation Bild daily how Andreas Lubitz told her: “One day I’m going to do something that will change the whole system, and everyone will know my name and remember.”
“I never knew what he meant by that but now it makes sense,” it quoted the “shocked” flight attendant as saying, adding the remark repeatedly ran through her head after hearing about Tuesday’s air disaster.
The black box voice recorder indicates that Lubitz, 27, locked his captain out of the cockpit of the Germanwings jet and deliberately flew Flight 4U 9525 into a mountainside, French officials say, in what appears to have been a case of suicide and mass killing.
German prosecutors believe Lubitz hid an illness from the airline and said searches of his homes netted medical documents suggesting “an existing illness and appropriate medical treatment,” including sick leave notes that had been torn up and included the day of the crash.
They did not specify the illness, but media reports say he was suffering from depression.
Bild, which showed a photograph of the ex-girlfriend in a black leather jacket and jeans from behind to conceal her face, said she had flown with Lubitz on European flights for five months last year and they would secretly meet up in hotels as she did not want work colleagues to know about their relationship.
She said he could be sweet and used to send flowers but got agitated when talking about work conditions, such as pay or the pressure of the job, and was plagued by nightmares. “At night he woke up and screamed ‘We’re going down!'” she recalled.
If Lubitz did deliberately crash the plane, it was “because he understood that because of his health problems, his big dream of a job at Lufthansa, of a job as captain and as a long-haul pilot was practically impossible,” she told Bild.
She split up with him because it became “increasingly clear that he had problems”, she said.
Germanwings pilot Frank Woiton was quoted by Bild Saturday as saying he had flown with Lubitz who had spoken about his ambitions to become a captain and fly long-distance routes.
He said he handled the plane well and “therefore I also left him alone in the cockpit to go to the toilet,” he told the newspaper.
Bild reported Friday that Lubitz sought psychiatric help for “a bout of serious depression” in 2009 and was still getting assistance from doctors, quoting documents from Germany’s air transport regulator.
Several German newspapers Saturday questioned whether doctor-patient confidentiality should always apply.
“The case of Andreas Lubitz has already sparked a debate on whether medical confidentiality for professions like pilots must be limited,” said the Sueddeutsche Zeitung newspaper.
Lufthansa CEO Carsten Spohr has said that Lubitz had suspended his pilot training, which began in 2008, “for a certain period”, before restarting and qualifying for the Airbus A320 in 2013.
The second-in-command had passed all psychological tests required for training, he told reporters Thursday.
Germany is to hold a national memorial ceremony and service on April 17 for the victims of Tuesday’s disaster, half of whom were German, with Spain accounting for at least 50 and the remainder composed of more than a dozen other nationalities.
A religious ceremony was being held early Saturday in the town of Digne-les-Bains, about 40 kilometres (25 miles) south of the remote Alpine crash zone where the difficult and painstaking operation to comb for the victims’ remains and evidence has resumed.
Lubitz locked himself into the cockpit when the captain went out to use the toilet, then refused his colleague’s increasingly desperate pleas to reopen the door, French prosecutor Brice Robin said.
The tragedy has prompted a shake-up of airline safety rules and several airlines to adopt the “rule of two” rule in the cockpit.
Investigators say Lubitz’s intention was clear because he operated a button sending the plane into a plunge.
For the next eight minutes, Lubitz was apparently calm and breathing normally.