Germanwings ‘black box’ shows co-pilot Andreas Lubitz sped up descent

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MARSEILLE, France  — Initial tests on the flight data recorder recovered from downed Germanwings Flight 9525 show that co-pilot Andreas Lubitz purposely used the controls to speed up the plane’s descent, according to the French air accident investigation agency, the BEA.

The flight data recorder, or “black box,” was found Thursday by recovery teams that have spent days since the March 24 crash scouring the mountainside in the French Alps where the plane went down.

A statement from the BEA said its teams had immediately begun to investigate its contents.

“A first reading shows that this pilot in the cockpit used the autopilot to engage the aircraft down to an altitude of 100 feet, and on several occasions during the descent, the pilot changed the driver setting automatically to increase the speed of the plane descending,” it said.

“Work continues to determine the specific parameters of the flight.”

Evidence from the plane’s cockpit audio recorder, recovered swiftly after the crash, had already led investigators to believe that Lubitz acted deliberately to bring down the plane, killing all 150 people on board.

And prosecutors in Germany said Thursday that an analysis of a tablet device retrieved from the 27-year-old’s apartment in Dusseldorf revealed that he had researched suicide methods and cockpit door security on the Internet.

The correspondence and search history on the device demonstrated that the co-pilot used it from March 16 to March 23, Dusseldorf prosecutor Christoph Kumpa said.

The search history was not deleted and also revealed searches concerning medical treatment, the prosecutor said.

Investigators have focused on Lubitz’s health as they try to establish his motivation.

But the missing “black box” was expected to yield important evidence about the plane’s final minutes.

A female police officer digging by hand for clothes in a ravine that been searched previously found the flight data recorder Thursday afternoon about 8 inches (20 centimeters) below the surface, Marseille prosecutor Brice Robin told reporters.

Normally white with florescent orange, this discovered recorder lived up to its name as a black box because fire had darkened it with ashes.