Killer co-pilot Andreas Lubitz had an obsession with the French Alps and used to fly gliders over the mountainside where he brought down a Germanwings flight, it has emerged.
The 27-year-old, who deliberately downed the Airbus A320 killing all 150 people on board, was said to be ‘passionate’ about the Alps and would have been well-acquainted with the area of the crash.
Lubitz dreamed of becoming a pilot from a young age and frequented a gliding club just 30 miles from the crash site with his parents as a child, former members claimed today.
Co-pilot Andreas Lubitz (above) had an obsession with the French Alps and used to fly gliders over the mountainside where he brought down a Germanwings flight, killing all 150 crew and passengers on board
Lubitz flew over the province in the southern French Alps where downed the passenger jet as a teenager and later completed gliding lessons over the area. One acquaintance said he was ‘obsessed’ with the region
Lubitz deliberately crashed the Germanwings Flight 4U9525 into the mountains on Tuesday after locking his captain out of the cockpit. He is said to have remained calm as he drove the plane directly into the ground
As a teenager, he took part in flights over the province in the southern French Alps where the jet plummeted to the ground, before later completing a gliding course in the area.
Dieter Wagner, a member of Luftsportclub Westerwald – the gliding association where Lubitz first learnt to fly aged 14 – said: ‘He was passionate about the Alps, even obsessed with them.’
He added to Le Parisien: ‘Andreas participated in courses in the Alpes-de-Haute-Provence with my niece, who was a good friend to him.
‘I am sure he knew the area of the crash because he had flown over it in a glider.’
The flying club, which is situated in Lubitz’s hometown of Montabaur, Germany, confirmed that the co-pilot had taken part in glider training sessions with the club’s partner firm in Sisteron – a town in the Alpes-de-Haute-Provence of France.
Francis Kefer, a member of the club in Sisteron, said that Lubitz and his family regularly visited the region between 1996 and 2003.
The Aero-club de Sisteron glider airfield, which is popular with glider pilots thanks to its numerous peaks and valleys and stunning panoramas, is situated just 30 miles away from the crash site.
According to local glider pilots, Lubitz overflew the major turning points for gliders in the region, flying from one peak to another.
Ernst Müller, a member of Luftsportclub Westerwald aviation club, said: ‘I am certain that Andreas has participated at least once or two internships with us in Sisteron.’
One friend said he ‘would have died’ if he had not passed his flying exams – and even became a flight attendant while he waited to start his training.
Lubitz eventually went on to become a co-pilot for Germanwings in 2013 but his training was interrupted by a bout of depression and he found it difficult to shake off perceptions that he was not fully up to the demanding job.
News of his obsession with the French Alps comes amid claims from German newspaper The Rheinische Post that he may have crashed the plane due to fears he was about to lose his licence on medical grounds.
The pilot locked his captain out of the cockpit on Tuesday before setting the Germanwings Flight 4U9525’s controls to descend into a rocky valley, obliterating the plane and killing all 150 people on board.
Lubitz, a keen runner, had built his whole life around becoming a pilot and even posted pictures of planes all over his bedroom walls as a child. A friend said he ‘would have died’ if he had not have passed his flying exams
A member of the flying club which Lubitz started lessons with as a teenager said he was ‘well-acquainted’ with the French Alps and regularly flew over the area where he brought down the passenger plane on Tuesday
Investigators revealed yesterday that medical sign-off notes were found at Lubitz’s home – including at least one that covered the day of the crash – and Dusseldorf University Hospital confirmed he had been a patient there over the past two months, although it would not disclose his condition.
More sick notes are said to have covered other days when he flew despite being told not to. However, police said they found no suicide note in a five-hour search.
Speaking to MailOnline, an airline spokesman stressed the company was unaware of any medical notes and said it had been Lubitz’s responsibility to tell his employers he was unfit to fly.
He was facing a potential medical examination that could have seen his pilot’s licence removed and it is thought he may have feared mental or other health problems would bring an end to his dream.
Former BA pilot Alastair Rosenschein said pilots of Lubitz’s age face regular medicals as well as simulator tests and can be grounded if they fail to pass.
He told MailOnline: ‘He may have known that his career was already over. He may have known that the end was in sight.’
Mr Rosenschein said that, in Britain, pilots under 40 face annual or bi-annual medicals and, as well as testing physical health, doctors often ask questions to assess pilots’ mental health.
He added: ‘However, it’s difficult to see how a doctor could foresee something like this. There are no rules that someone who is having marital or financial difficulties cannot fly.’
In a blunt admission yesterday, Carsten Spohr, the head of Lufthansa which owns the budget airline, admitted Lubitz had slipped through the safety net with devastating consequences.
‘The pilot had passed all his tests, all his medical exams,’ he said. ‘He was 100 per cent fit to fly without any restrictions.
‘We have at Lufthansa, a reporting system where crew can report – without being punished – their own problems, or they can report about the problems of others without any kind of punishment.
‘All the safety nets we are all so proud of here have not worked in this case.’
German investigators removed dozens of boxes from the Dusseldorf apartment Lubitz shared with his girlfriend yesterday, as they continue to search for clues which could explain the reasons behind the air crash
Investigators found a torn up sicknote which was valid on the day of the crash among other evidence
Other possible explanations for Lubitz’s actions are that he may have stopped taking his medication so it would not be detected in any medical tests or slipped into desperation during a crisis in his relationship.
He is said to have recently split from his on/off girlfriend, who he lived with in a smart flat on the outskirts of Dusseldorf.
Some media reports claim the pair were together for seven years and were engaged to be married next year.
However, a former lover of Lubitz came forward today to claim she had dated the troubled co-pilot for five months last year.
The 26-year-old air Germanwings stewardess said she met Lubitz while the pair flew across Europe together and said they would often stay in hotels together.
She said he even warned her that he was going to commit an act so heinous that his name would be remembered for ever.
The woman, known only as Maria W, revealed to German newspaper Bild how he ominously told her last year: ‘One day I will do something that will change the whole system, and then all will know my name and remember it.’
When she heard about the airliner crash, she remembered Lubitz’s menacing prophecy.
‘I never knew what he meant, but now it makes sense,’ she said.