Germanwings pilot Andreas Lubitz not only researched suicide methods before fatally crashing a passenger jet into the Swiss Alps in March – he also practiced dives before the crash, it was revealed Wednesday.
French air accident bureau BEA released an official report on the crash on Wednesday, revealing that Lubitz repeatedly set the Airbus into a descent on an earlier flight on the same jet on the morning of the disaster. In both cases, the other pilot had left the cockpit before Lubitz made his move.
During the first flight, Lubitz repeatedly brought the plane into a controlled descent and then back up again by switching the autopilot settings, according to the Daily Mail. The 'practice round' was not noticeable because the plane was already descending.
To do so, Lubitz set the altitude to the minimum setting of 100 feet, and then adjusted the speed to send the plane plunging out of the sky.
Lubitz, 27, had been deemed fit to fly by his employers at Germanwings, a subsidiary of Lufthansa.
In late March, investigators revealed he had received treatment for "suicidal tendencies." Several days later, Lufthansa admitted that it was in fact aware that Lubitz was suffering from a severe mental illness – but that it allowed him to fly nonetheless.
According to the company, which owns Germanwings, in 2009 Lubitz contacted his flying school to alert them of "a previous episode of mental depression."
The astonishing admission represents an embarrassing climbdown from claims by Lufthansa CEO Carsten Spoh that the 27-year-old German had been cleared as "100 percent fit to fly without caveats", as the company rushed to avoid responsibility in the immediate aftermath of Lubitz's murderous act.
Skepticism over the company's claims that it didn't know about Lubitz's mental health problems surfaced near the start of the investigation, when prosecutors found several torn-up sick notes in his house. At the time, however, it was claimed he had hidden the evidence from his employers.