The Germanwings co-pilot believed to have intentionally crashed a plane into the French Alps had a note from his doctor certifying him unfit to work on the day of the crash that he never passed on to his employer.
Andreas Lubitz, 27, suffered from an unspecified mental illness, said a person familiar with the matter, who asked not to be identified discussing details from an ongoing investigation.
After searching Lubitz’s apartment and his parents’ home, investigators found torn-up medical documents and sick notes, including one for Tuesday, the prosecutors office leading the probe in Germany, said Friday. Authorities believe Lubitz, who was in treatment, hid his medical condition from Germanwings, according to the release.
Police on Thursday took evidence from his apartment in Dusseldorf and the house he grew up in about 140 kilometers (87 miles) away in the town of Montabaur looking for clues as to why he appears to have locked the captain out of the cockpit and then crashed the plane, killing 149 passengers and crew. No suicide note or letter claiming responsibility was found during the searches, according to the statement from prosecutors.
Investigators plan to examine the medical documents about his treatment and also question witnesses, they said. The Dusseldorf prosecutors informed their French colleagues heading the probe at the crash site of the findings.
Carsten Spohr, chief executive officer of Germanwings parent Deutsche Lufthansa AG, said on Thursday that Lubitz, who started his pilot training in 2008, took leave for “several months” at one point, declining to elaborate. Lufthansa declined to comment on the findings released Friday.
Lubitz’s flying license had a code on it that meant he needed special medical checks, Bild Zeitung reported. The federal office of civil aviation, which keeps the country’s registry of licensed pilots, said Friday that it has handed relevant files on Lubitz to investigators and can’t provide any details about those documents.
All pilots are routinely reassessed and Lubitz was deemed fit to fly, Spohr said Thursday. Lubitz, who had also worked as a flight attendant for 11 months, had logged 630 flight hours.
Investigators are rushing to find the onboard data recorder to help confirm their suspicions that Lubitz steered the jet en route to Dusseldorf from Barcelona into a mountain.
Audio files from the flight deck revealed that the co-pilot began descending after the captain stepped out of the cockpit, then denied him re-entry, according to Brice Robin, a prosecutor handling the French side of the investigation. Except for his breathing, the co-pilot stayed silent until the plane slammed into a slope at full speed, Robin said.
The findings from the voice recorder on the Airbus A320 suggest that the crash was deliberate rather than due to a technical fault. Recovering the data unit, the second half of the airliner’s so-called black boxes, is important because it tracks the changes made by the crew to the controls.
Lubitz studied at Lufthansa’s flight instruction school in Bremen, which was founded in 1956 and trains about 200 pilots a year. Students complete a major part of their practical training in the Arizona desert at a facility that “offers outstanding flying and weather conditions,” according to Lufthansa’s website.
Before accepting someone to its flight school, the airline conducts a two-day test that includes mathematics, physics, memory and medical checks. Those passing the first round are invited back for another two days of assessments during which psychologists do role plays with applicants to see how they perform under stress situations, according to past participants.
Lufthansa, along with some other European carriers, prefers to hire pilots at a young age and train them to fly. That system is different from U.S. carriers, which recruit pilots who have come up through the ranks of charter airlines, other commercial flight operations or the military.
“There is a very heavy screening process,” John Cox, a former U.S. airline pilot who is president of Washington-based Safety Operating Systems, said of Lufthansa’s pilot training. “I’m going to guess that only 10 percent of the original applicants get through.”