Germanwings co-pilot Andreas Lubitz: What we know about man who allegedly downed plane

Friends described his love of flying and claimed he became increasingly withdrawn over the last year

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The Independent Online

Germanwings co-pilot Andreas Lubitz has been described by some as a "mentally unstable freak" consumed by a life-long passion for flying, but remembered by others as a "completely normal guy".

A person claiming to know the 27-year-old well told the Passauer Neue Presse newspaper: “He was a real fanatic, for him there was always only one target: to fly. He held on to that dream from elementary school.”

His passion was evident in his bedroom, which the friend described as “completely papered with pictures of aeroplanes – you could see the Lufthansa emblem everywhere”.

Among pictures of planes old and new were models hanging from the ceiling and aviation equipment scattered around, even over his bed.

Described by acquaintances as quiet but friendly, he started training as soon as possible in his hometown of Montabaur, in the Rhineland-Palatinate region of western Germany.

There he joined the LSC Westerwald flying club and obtained his glider pilot's licence as a teenager.

Klaus Radke, chairman of Westerwald, said it was always Mr Lubitz’s dream to become a Lufthansa pilot. “It seems impossible that he did this,” he added. “We are speechless.”

The aviation enthusiast was, Mr Radke said, a “completely normal guy”.

“I got to know him, or I should say, reacquainted with him, as a very nice, fun and polite young man,” he added.

Mr Lubitz was employed as a flight attendant when he first tried to become a pilot after waiting for eight months, and did not start working as a first officer for Lufthansa until September 2013.

He continued to be nicknamed “Tomato Andy" - a reference to his past employment as a flight steward.

A spokesperson for Lufthansa said he had 630 hours of flying experience after completing full training in Bremen and Arizona.

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Andreas Lubitz runs the Airport Race half marathon in Hamburg on 13 September 2009

But that training was interrupted for several months in 2009, when he was reportedly deemed "unsuitable for flight duties" while receiving regular treatment for depression.

Sources told the German tabloid Bild Lubitz received psychiatric treatment for one and a half years while in flight school, and was forced to repeat some classes because of a struggle with depression.

It said he had received regular medical treatment ever since he suffered a “serious depressive episode” six years ago, described by one source as "burnout".

But he returned to training and passed all exams and medical assessments.

"After he was cleared again, he resumed training. He passed all the subsequent tests and checks with flying colours," Lufthansa CEO Carsten Spohr said on Thursday.

Investigators are examining whether Mr Lubitz was going through a "personal life crisis" at the time of the crash.

A friend who met the pilot six years ago and flew with him in gliding school said he had become increasingly withdrawn over the past year.

He was said to be having problems with his girlfriend of seven years, who he is believed to have shared an apartment with in Dusseldorf.

German prosecutors today announced that there are indications Mr Lubitz may have been concealing an illness from his employers and should have been on sick leave on the day of the crash.

Searches at his home uncovered torn up medical letters detailing an unspecified illness requiring medical treatment and leave from work.

"The fact there are sick notes saying he was unable to work, among other things, that were found torn up, which were recent and even from the day of the crime, support the assumption based on the preliminary assessment that the deceased concealed his illness from his employer and his colleagues," a spokesperson for the Dusseldorf public prosecutor said.

Dusseldorf University Hospital subsequently released a statement saying he attended in recent months for "diagnostic assessment", most recently on 10 March.

A spokesperson said his medical condition, revealed to prosecutors, was confidential but that the hospital did not treat Mr Lubitz for depression.

Dr Klaus Höffken, the hospital’s medical director and CEO, expressed staff’s “dismay, horror and disbelief” and vowed to “unreservedly” support all investigations into Tuesday’s crash.

Neighbours who had seen Mr Lubitz grow up in Montabaur said he had showed no signs of depression when they saw him last autumn.

One told a German newspaper: "His big dream was to become a pilot. He pursued and achieved this goal with vigou."

The co-pilot was friendly, the neighbour told the newspaper, adding: “We often saw him go jogging past the house.”

Mr Lubitz’s Facebook page , now deleted, showed him as a smiling man posing in front of the Golden Gate Bridge in California.

His “likes” included flying and gadgets as well as electronic music and ten-pin bowling and pictures of him running a race in 2009 showed his passion for exercise.

In September 2013 it was announced that Mr Lubitz had been included in the Federal Aviation Administration's prestigious FAA Airmen Certification Database.

Certified pilots included on the American aviation authority's list “have met or exceeded the high educational, licensing and medical standards established by the FAA”.

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Andreas Lubitz runs the Airportrace half marathon in Hamburg on 13 September 2009

Announcing the certificate, Aviation Business Gazette wrote: “FAA pilot certification can be the difference between a safe flight and one that ends in tragedy.”

Paying tribute to him before the terrible news of his involvement broke, the LSC Westerwald flying club said: “Andreas died as an officer in action on the tragic flight.

"As a youth Andreas was a member of the club who had always dreamed of being a pilot. He began as a gliding plane student and succeeded in becoming pilot of an Airbus A320.

“He fulfilled his dream, a dream for which he has paid dearly with his life.”

Additional reporting by AP

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