A Bewildering Crash

By Philip Gourevitch 

Flying time from Barcelona to Dusseldorf is an hour and fifty-six minutes—not a long haul—so there’s no reason to imagine that Andreas Lubitz, the co-pilot of Germanwings Flight 9525, could have anticipated that his commander, Captain Patrick Sondenheimer, would get up and leave him alone in the cockpit, as the captain did, a little more than twenty minutes after takeoff on Tuesday, while the plane, an Airbus 320, cruised over the French Alps. There is no reason to imagine, in other words, that Lubitz could have foreseen, on that route, or on that day, much less in that precise airspace, that he would find himself, without any struggle, in a position to lock himself in the cockpit and take control of the plane, initiating its descent, and continuing to fly it steadily down, down, down over eight minutes that must have seemed to anyone conscious of the trajectory a god-awful eternity, especially after the captain began knocking, then shouting, then pounding at the barred cockpit door—flying down, down out of the sky, down into the mountains, down into death: his death and the deaths of the hundred and forty-nine other souls whose fate he had become.

Read on…


  1. “Could the Germanwings Crash Have Been Avoided?” James Fallows http://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2015/03/germanwings-crash-murder-suicide-pilot/388778/

    “Pilots on the Germanwings Murder/Suicide”

    “More From Pilots and Doctors on the Germanwings Crash” http://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2015/03/more-on-the-germanwings-crash/388967/