TIME Aviation

Here’s What We Know About the Germanwings Co-Pilot Andreas Lubitz

Investigators are scrambling to understand why he intentionally crashed Flight 9525 in the French Alps

Andreas Lubitz liked pop music, jogging and, of course, flying.

On Thursday, French prosecutors claimed that Lubitz, who friends say was “rather quiet,” “polite” and “fun,” intentionally crashed Germanwings Flight 9525 on Tuesday, killing himself and the 149 other individuals onboard.

Investigators raided Lubitz’s apartment along with his parents’ home in Montabaur, Germany, this week, as they clamored to shed some light on why or what drove the 27-year-old co-pilot to commit mass murder.

Germany’s Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere said there is no evidence to suggest that the co-pilot had any links to a terrorist organization.

“According to the current state of knowledge and after comparing information that we have, he does not have a terrorist background,” said Maiziere.

Officials from Germanwings’ parent company, Lufthansa, said Lubitz had completed all the criteria required to pilot a commercial aircraft and appeared to be both mentally and physically fit. A security probe last vetted Lubitz in January; however, nothing unusual appears to have come up during the routine inquiry, reports the Associated Press.

“The pilot has passed all his tests, all his medical exams, “ said Carsten Spohr, Lufthansa’s CEO. “All the safety nets we’re so proud of here, have not worked in this case.”

Lubitz, a lifelong aviation enthusiast, first enrolled in the Lufthansa’s pilot program in 2008 and trained in Germany and Arizona. The 27-year-old later joined Germanwings as a pilot in 2013 and logged 630 flight hours on the A320 before this week’s crash.

On Thursday, Lufthansa confirmed that the co-pilot had briefly interrupted his training course about six years ago. The airline said they are still investigating what may have led to that brief hiatus.

German tabloids have inferred that Lubitz might have suffered from some type of psychological breakdown during that time. Other reports have suggested that Lubitz might have recently been reeling from relationship problems with his girlfriend.

Regardless, aviation experts say pilots are thoroughly tested and other crew members are supposed to remain vigilant when it comes to making sure their fellow pilots are fit to fly.

“Every time they fly, there’s always another pilot doing an assessment. So if one pilot thinks another pilot is going weird, that pilot has a responsibility to report that,” Jason Middleton, an aviation professor at the University of New South Wales in Sydney, tells TIME. “Weirdos and people with mental illnesses are pretty well filtered out.”

TIME Cameroon

More People Are Fleeing Northern Cameroon to Escape Boko Haram

In this file photo taken on Feb. 25, 2015, a family of refugees that fled their homes due to violence from the militant group Boko Haram sit inside a refugee camp in Minawao, Cameroon
Edwin Kindzeka Moki—AP A family of refugees who fled their homes because of violence from the militant group Boko Haram sit inside a refugee camp in Minawao, Cameroon, on Feb. 25, 2015

Cross-border attacks are fueling the exodus

The surge in violence and cross-border attacks by Nigerian Islamist militants Boko Haram has doubled the number of civilians in Cameroon displaced by the conflict, with some 117,000 people from northern Cameroon fleeing their homes in March alone, according to a U.N. survey.

Boko Haram, which has waged an insurgency in northern Nigeria since 2009, has killed 6,400 and carried out 337 attacks since January 2014, according to the U.N. Recently, the group has been launching cross-border attacks into Niger, Chad and Cameroon.

“The northern part of Cameroon was already under severe strain due to deteriorating climate conditions over the last three years. The growing insecurity has further exacerbated that situation,” U.N. Sahel coordinator Robert Piper told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

Cameroon also shelters at least 66,000 Nigerian refugees escaping Boko Haram.


TIME Burma

Burma Army Commander Pledges Successful Elections

Burma's Commander-in-chief Senior Gen. Min Aung Hlaing speaks during a ceremony to mark the 70th anniversary of Armed Forces Day in Naypyitaw, Burma, March 27, 2015.
Khin Maung Win—AP Burma's Commander-in-chief Senior Gen. Min Aung Hlaing speaks during a ceremony to mark the 70th anniversary of Armed Forces Day in Naypyitaw, Burma, March 27, 2015.

"Any disturbance to stability of the state and prevalence of law, any armed pressure or any threats for voting won't be allowed in the general election"

(NAYPYITAW, Burma) — Burma’s powerful military commander pledged Friday to work to support successful elections in November, calling it “an important landmark for democracy implementation,” and warned that the army will not tolerate instability or armed threats.

This year’s elections will be the first to be held by the semi-civilian government that swept to power after a 2010 vote widely seen as rigged in favor of the military-backed rulers.

“The general election which is going to be held in the early days of November 2015 represents an important landmark of democracy implementation of our country,” Commander-in-chief Senior Gen. Min Aung Hlaing said in a speech to more than 10,000 troops at a big ceremony marking Armed Forces Day, which commemorates the day the army rose up against Japanese occupiers during World War II some 70 years ago.

“Any disturbance to stability of the state and prevalence of law, any armed pressure or any threats for voting won’t be allowed in the general election,” he said.

But critics say that even under the best circumstances it will be difficult to view the upcoming polls as free or fair. The constitution guarantees the army 25 percent of all parliamentary seats and other special political powers. And the most popular politician, opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, is barred from running for presidency because her late husband and sons are foreign citizens.

Meanwhile, the government has been unable to reach a conclusive peace agreement with armed ethnic minority groups fighting in border regions. And members of the long persecuted Rohingya population — labeled by the government as illegal migrants — will most likely not be allowed to vote.

Army chief also said the Burmese army is “risking the lives and limbs” of its military officers and troops to achieve stability in border areas.

Ongoing clashes with ethnic Kokang rebels in Burma’s northeast, close to China, has killed hundreds of government troops and caused tension with neighboring China after stray shells reportedly fell into China and killed 5 people.

TIME Aviation

Airlines Adopt Two-in-the-Cockpit Rule After Germanwings Crash

Pilots walk past a light aircraft trainer at the Airline Training Center Arizona in Goodyear, Arizona
Reuters Pilots walk past a Lufthansa light aircraft trainer at the Airline Training Center Arizona (ATCA) in Goodyear, Arizona March 26, 2015

Numerous airlines hastily changed their policies Thursday to require that two crew members be in the cockpit at all times, after the co-pilot of a Germanwings flight apparently deliberately crashed a plane, killing 150 people, after having locked out the captain.

The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration for many years has required that at least two qualified crew members be in the cockpit throughout every flight. But that’s not the case in other parts of the world.

John Cox, chief executive of Safety Operating Systems, a Washington-based aviation safety consultant, said Tuesday’s crash in the French Alps would likely lead most airlines and national aviation authorities to follow suit…

Read this story in full from our partners at NBC.com

TIME Syria

This Is the Surprising Way Some Syrians Are Protecting Themselves From Snipers

A young boy walks past a makeshift barricade made of wreckages of buses to obstruct the view of regime snipers and to keep people safe in Aleppo, Syria on March 14, 2015.
Karam Al-Masri—AFP/Getty Images A young boy walks past a makeshift barricade made of wreckages of buses to obstruct the view of regime snipers and to keep people safe in Aleppo, Syria on March 14, 2015.

Rebel fighters upended these buses using ropes and pulleys

Some buses in Aleppo, Syria, have been reconverted to serve as protection from snipers loyal to the country’s embattled President Bashar Assad.

This photo, taken in the rebel-controlled Bustan al-Qasr neighborhood on March 21, is by Karam Al-Masri, a young Syrian who became a photographer following the uprising in his country that has now spilled into four years of civil war. “I wasn’t a photographer before,” he tells TIME. “But I started to cover the events to show what is going on in my country.”

Agence France-Presse distributes Al-Masri’s photographs.

“The Ahrar al-Sham brigade [a group that adheres to the conservative Salafi interpretation of Sunni Islam] placed the buses in such a way,” he says. “They used ropes, pulleys and a number of men to get the buses in such position. They are [blocking] the view of regime snipers.”

These upended buses are now a common sight in Aleppo, says Al-Masri, with several neighborhoods using the crude set-up to bring back a fragile sense of security to a city divided between forces loyal to the government and a slew of disparate insurgent groups.

TIME portfolio

See the Nigerian Town Freed From Boko Haram

Bama, Nigeria, is now a ghost of a town

Even before Nichole Sobecki’s helicopter landed in Bama, Nigeria, on March 25, the staggering devastation was visible.

The militant group Boko Haram, which has sworn allegiance to the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS), held the key northeastern town for six months before military forces wrestled control of it about a week earlier. The American photographer, based in Nairobi but recently working in Abuja, was embedded with Nigeria’s army, which took back Bama as part of a multi-pronged effort that also includes forces from neighboring Niger, Chad and Cameroon.

“Corrugated iron roofs lie among charred debris, the walls of houses blackened with soot or in ruins,” she tells TIME. “Dusty roads inside the town offer further evidence of atrocities. The remains of a man lie in a sewer, in the fetal position surrounded by trash and human waste. A nearby bridge was used as an execution site,” she adds. “Soldiers cover their faces when entering Bama’s former prison to protect themselves from the smell of those killed as a final act of vengeance before Boko Haram fled the town.”

Sobecki says Bama is now a shadow of a town.

“It’s empty of all but a fraction of its people; its buildings collapsed; the smell of decay everywhere,” she says. “Most people had fled in the days before I got there, often to Maiduguri, where an estimated 7,500 people are camped out in a makeshift settlement of little more than a few dilapidated buildings in a clearing of Neem trees on the outskirts of the city.”

Those who remain—mainly women and children—sit “huddled together on the roadside,” she continues, “seeking shelter from the harsh sun in what little shade they can find as camouflaged troops roll by in armored personnel carriers.”

Nigerians will go to the polls this weekend, but despite a big push from the country’s military and its allies against Boko Haram, much needs to happen for the country to stabilize.

“This crisis has been years in the making,” Sobecki says. “It’s going to take a much more sustained effort to restore any meaningful sense of security here. When I visited northern Nigeria in 2010, I saw a crumbling education system, poor infrastructure and poverty and unemployment out of line with the rest of the country. Today, it doesn’t look much different.”

Read next: Why Nigeria’s Elections Could Trigger Renewed Violence

TIME Aviation

What We Know So Far About the Germanwings Plane Crash

'I would say that if one person kills himself and also 149 people another word should be used, not suicide'

Officials said Thursday that the crash of Germanwings Flight 9525 appears to be a deliberate act by a co-pilot who locked himself in the cockpit and flew the plane into a mountain. All 150 people aboard were killed when the jet crashed into the French Alps on Tuesday.

Here’s everything we know so far about the unfolding tragedy:

What exactly happened on the day of the flight?

Germanwings Flight 9525, an Airbus A320, departed Barcelona en route to Dusseldorf on Tuesday morning. Around 30 minutes into the flight, the plane had reached a cruising altitude of 38,000 feet when it began to descend rapidly at a rate of 3,000 feet per minute. Ten minutes later, the plane crashed in a remote area of the French Alps. Initially thought to be a tragic accident, investigators now suspect the crash was a “deliberate” act by the co-pilot.

How did investigators reach that conclusion?

The plane’s black box audio recording, recovered from the wreckage, documents the pilot knocking loudly on the cockpit door as the plane descended. The co-pilot, Andreas Lubitz, can reportedly be heard breathing on the recording but did nothing to open the door. Screams can reportedly also be heard on the recording in the moments before the impact. Marseille prosecutor Brice Robin, who has played a key role in the investigation, said Thursday that the incident was due to the “voluntary action of the co-pilot.” It remains unclear whether the pilot tried to reenter the cockpit using a security code, Lufthansa CEO Carsten Spohr said at a news conference.

Who was the co-pilot?

Andreas Lubitz from Montabaur, Germany, had control of the plane at the time of the crash. The 28-year-old was a lifelong aviation enthusiast who joined a local flying club as a teenager, where he would eventually receive his flying license. He signed up with German carrier Lufthansa’s pilot program in 2008 and trained in Germany and Arizona. Spohr said Lubitz took a several-month-long break from training, an unusual occurrence, but re-entered the program without issue.

Lubitz joined Germanwings as a pilot in 2013 and temporarily worked as a flight attendant while waiting for an opening as a co-pilot. He had 630 flight hours on the A320 under his belt at the time of the crash, making him a relative rookie.

Was it suicide, terrorism or something else?

Investigators have said unambiguously that they believe the crash to be “deliberate,” but have declined to go much further — and have avoided calling an act that killed 149 others a suicide. But Lubitz had no known link to terrorism, Robin said. None of the passengers had connections to terrorist organizations either, according German Interior Minister Thomas de Maizière. And not everyone is holding the co-pilot responsible just yet; German pilots told TIME that it’s premature to blame Lubitz before a full inquiry has been completed. Even though the investigators said the crash was intentional, they admitted having no idea about a potential motive. “We have no indication what could have led the co-pilot to commit this terrible act,” Spohr said.

Do regulations exist to prevent a pilot doing this?

On U.S. airlines, a flight attendant must enter the cockpit when either the pilot or co-pilot leaves for whatever reason. Since Tuesday’s crash, at least four airliners elsewhere—low-cost European carriers Easyjet and Norwegian Air among them—have announced they would adopt new rules for cockpits.

Does the airline have a decent safety record?

Germanwings, a low-cost carrier wholly owned by German airline Lufthansa, operates throughout Europe and has maintained a clean safety record since its founding in 1997. None of its airplanes had been involved in a crash prior to this week, the company said.

And what about the aircraft?

The A320 has a reputation as a workhorse for commercial airlines, carrying passengers around the world on medium-range routes. Crashes are not unknown; an A320 operated by AirAsia crashed into the Java Sea in January, and a U.S. Airways A320 made the famous “miracle on the Hudson” crash landing in 2009. But before you read too much into that, aviation experts say the A320 is among the safest planes in the sky. Only 11 of the model’s nearly 80 million flights since it entered service in the 1980s have been fatal, according to Air Safe. That’s six times fewer than the Boeing 747, for example.

Who was aboard?

The flight carried 144 passengers and 6 crew members. About half of the people aboard were German, and 25% of the passengers were Spanish. At least 13 other countries are represented in the remaining passengers, including three Americans—mother and daughter Yvonne and Emily Selke from Virginia, and Robert Oliver Calvo, an American citizen born in Barcelona. Also among the dead were 16 German high schoolers, a newlywed couple, and a pair of renowned opera singers. Death was instantaneous for the passengers aboard, Robin, the Marseille prosecutor, said on Thursday.

What might happen next?

There are still plenty of questions to be answered; it’s unclear whether the pilot locked outside the cockpit entered a code to get back in or whether Lubitz manually prevented him from entering. FBI investigators have joined the inquiry into the crash, alongside German, French and Spanish officials. Late Thursday night, a team of investigators searched the co-pilot’s Montabaur home and emerged with several bags, a large cardboard box and what appeared to be a computer. Meanwhile, the search goes on, high in the French Alps, for a second “black box” flight data recorder that might be able to reveal more about the plane’s final moments.

Read next: How Pilots Are Screened for Depression and Suicide

TIME Aviation

Third American Victim Identified in Germanwings Plane Crash

Robert Oliver lived in Barcelona

In Washington, U.S. State Department spokesman Jeff Rathke identified Robert Oliver as the third American citizen killed in the Germanwings plane crash.

He provided no further details Thursday, but Oliver’s parents told Spain’s La Sexta television channel their son lived in Barcelona and worked for the Desigual clothing company based in Spain’s second-largest city.

The elder Robert Oliver, who is retired, and his wife also live in Barcelona and decided against joining other relatives of victims who traveled to the crash zone.

The other American victims were Yvonne Selke of Nokesville, Virginia, an employee for 23 years at Booz Allen Hamilton Inc. in Washington, and her daughter, Emily Selke, a recent graduate of Drexel University in Philadelphia.


How the Germanwings Co-Pilot Was Able to Lock Himself In

Safety measures brought in after 9/11 may have helped the co-pilot barricade himself in the cockpit

The fatal crash of a German airliner in the French Alps, apparently a deliberate act by the plane’s co-pilot, seems to have been made possible by security measures brought in following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks intended to make air travel safer.

On Thursday, French officials said it appeared as if co-pilot Andreas Lubitz had deliberately downed Germanwings Flight 9525 by locking the cockpit door and refusing to allow the captain back inside. The crash killed all 150 on board.

If that is what happened, it would be an indirect result of tightened security measures implemented by airlines in the U.S. and around the world in the aftermath of 9/11, when 19 hijackers overcame crew and passengers and flew the planes into buildings in New York and Washington D.C.

In 2002, the FAA announced higher standards to protect pilots. Cockpit doors in airliners were made stronger while remaining locked throughout the flight. The FAA also mandated internal locking devices inside the cockpit to preventing someone from entering. But those restrictions, meant to prevent similar hijackings, may also have allowed Lubitz to prevent someone else from entering the flight deck as he piloted the jet into a mountainside.

“The procedures put in place to prevent one bad thing from happening facilitated another bad thing happening,” says Jeff Price, an aviation management professor at Metropolitan State University of Denver.

On an Airbus A320, a locked cockpit door can be opened through a nearby keypad—as shown in this Airbus video—but that can be overridden by an individual still inside the cockpit via a switch that can keep the cockpit door locked. “That act of fully locking the system down has made this event possible,” says aviation expert Chris Yates. “Pilots use that access keypad to wander into the cockpit anytime they choose, but it can be overridden from inside, and that seems to be the problem.”

Yates says one way to potentially avoid a similar situation would be to take out the locking mechanism altogether. But a simpler fix might be for all airlines to do as the U.S. has done since 9/11 and require a flight attendant to be inside the cockpit if one of the pilots is away. While some carriers have already begun doing this since the crash, many in Europe and across the world still don’t mandate it.

“U.S. airlines have been doing this since 9/11,” Price says. “And if the pilot decides to commit mass murder, there’s somebody else up there to open a door or notify somebody or take some sort of action.”

MORE How Pilots Are Screened for Depression and Suicide

Thomas Anthony, the director of the University of Southern California Aviation Safety and Security program, says there’s no one fix that would help prevent a similar incident. For any aviation mishap, he says, there are always four or five contributing factors, citing the Airbus’s strengthened cockpit doors as well as less interchange between the cabin crew and the flight crew, which he says has created a more isolated environment inside the cockpit. And he thinks any investigation into the downing of the German airliner will attempt to address this sort of insider threat.

“Every security measure that is taken has a price and often an unintended consequence,” Anthony says. “But I expect this will be a watershed event.”

Read next: Germanwings Plane Crash: We Could Be Doing Much More To Prevent Pilot Suicide

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TIME Aviation

Germanwings Faces Legal Fallout from Plane Crash

And an expert tells TIME that new revelations could make matters worse for the airline

In the minutes before their plane slammed into a mountainside in the French Alps this week, many of the passengers on Germanwings Flight 9525 witnessed a terrifying scene at the front of the aircraft. The captain of the plane found himself locked out of the cockpit by his co-pilot, Andreas Lubitz, as the plane lost altitude at alarming speeds, officials said Thursday. After banging on the door and beseeching Lubitz to open it, the captain tried to break through its armor plating. Until the final moments, the screams of the passengers could be heard on the flight recorder later found at the crash site, French prosecutor Brice Robin said.

Under the aviation laws that apply in this case, these final moments of terror could be part of the airline’s liability, said Peter Urwantschky, a leading German aviation lawyer who has represented the victims of commercial airplane crashes. “What you could have here is pre-death pain and suffering,” he said. “If a court concludes that the passengers knew what would happen, you would have to assess the fear of death in those final minutes.”

The broader question of liability for the crash, he added, seems clear in this case. “If you have a pilot with intent to bring down this plane, then you can forget about the liability limit,” he said. “You can say there is no limitation of liability.”

Such limitations could apply if the causes of a crash are outside the control of the airline and its staff—for instance, if a missile strikes the plane, like it did with Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, which was shot down over Ukraine last year. But such cases are extremely rare. Typically, the laws enshrined in the Montreal Convention, the international treaty that governs compensation for the victims of an air disaster, places the responsibility for an accident with the airline. That tends to encourage airlines to settle such claims out of court.

But because most of the claims in the case of the Germanwings plane would fall under the jurisdiction of German courts, the compensation available to the families would “not be very generous,” Urwantschky said. Unless a family can prove that it lost its breadwinner in the disaster, a claim for moral damages in Germany could be expected to bring about $20,000 to $40,000, far less than a similar claim in the United States, he said.

Speaking at a news briefing on Thursday in Frankfurt, the chief executives of Germanwings and its parent company, Lufthansa, declined to discuss issues of liability payments at this stage in the investigation.

Read next: Germanwings Plane Crash: We Could Be Doing Much More To Prevent Pilot Suicide

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