How quickly could the cause of the crash truly be determined?
On March 24 2015 a 24-year-old Germanwings Airbus A320-200, registration D-AIPX, crashed in the French Alps during the scheduled flight from Barcelona to Duesseldorf with 150 people on board. The “official” time data places the crash at 10:41. All 150 people were killed and the plane was completely destroyed.
Action forces from various French authorities and organisations were brought to the crash site the same day and began recovering human remains and searching for the cockpit voice recorder (CVR) and flight data recorder (FDR). In the early evening of March 24 2015 the cockpit voice recorder was found and recovered. The following day, March 25, the cockpit voice recorder was transported to Paris for evaluation and was downloaded and replayed for the first time. In contrast, the flight data recorder was only found nine days after the crash, on April 2, and was evaluated over the subsequent weeks. Up to this point these were the officially communicated facts.
Aircraft accident investigations are an extremely complex process and meticulously investigated for all possible causes of crashes. For this purpose, expert teams extensively and intensively examine the cockpit voice recorder and flight data recorder, among many other factors. Through a process of elimination the probable cause is eventually identified, but then verified with further focussed investigations. Only then will the cause of the crash be communicated by the investigating authority. Experience with all previous civil aviation crashes tells us that this process requires several months, if not years.
Two days after the crash, on March 26, after only a necessarily superficial evaluation of the cockpit voice recorder and no flight data recorder, the French prosecutor, Brice Robin, announced that he assumed that Andreas Lubitz had started a controlled descent about two minutes after reaching the cruising altitude and had caused the plane to crash.The captain, according to investigators’ claims, had previously left the cockpit. Therefore, Robin concluded, it is most likely that Lubitz intentionally flown the plane into the mountain to destroy it. This statement was made after a first superficial evaluation of the voice recorder and withoutthe flight data recorder, which should have precluded such a conclusion.
Question: Why would Robin do this?
In the following months, further investigations were carried out in France and Germany. In retrospect, however, the conclusions arrived at by these investigations appear to be biased in favour of the initial pronouncement and were supported by added assertions.
The question remains unanswered: Were all possible crash scenarios exhaustively examined and could alternative causes really be 100% excluded?