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Marseille Public Prosecutor Brice Robin Speaks about Germanwings Plane Crash; Co-Pilot "Activated the Descent". Aired 8- 8:30a ET

Aired March 26, 2015 - 08:00   ET


BRICE ROBIN, MARSEILLE PUBLIC PROSECUTOR (through translator): But I don't think it'll be necessary to look in that direction.

[08:00:05] QUESTION (through translator): You can't give his, who he was, the co-pilot?

ROBIN: I've already given it to the victims' families. His name with Andres, A-n-d-r-e-s, Lubitz.

QUESTION: Could a loss of consciousness led to the altitude maneuver?

ROBIN: No, the buttons, lever that you turn. You turn several times according to how much altitude you want to lose. It's a deliberate thing. It can't be done automatically. Well, if his head was to hit it, maybe it'll move by a quarter of a turn, but it won't do anything. It won't turn it 15 times.

I would remind you, he went from 10,000 to 12,000 meters down to 2,000. So he went from what we call 380 to 80, if I'm not mistaken, or 90, 380, which is 30,000 feet, to 6,000 feet. So we can conclude that in all circumstances it's deliberate. At the moment, I consider it to be deliberate, first of all, refusing entry to the cockpit, second, maneuvering the lever for loss of altitude. You said it's not so much, but it is 1,000 meters a minute, as if he was landing. We're above the mountains, aren't we? And there's no other airport which could receive an Airbus 320 anywhere near.

QUESTION: There was nobody in the cockpit when the captain went out?

ROBIN: No. The second black box has to do with all recordings dealing with the flight -- pressure, temperature, so on, the parameters. These, this will be added information. And it may allow us to know there was no other cause involved.

Having got this information a bit late during the night, yes, that's why I'm a bit angry about it. Are you going to -- well, my principle. When I'm dealing with a difficult investigation like this one, I focus on the investigation itself. We can subsequently see if there were any leaks. It's not the leaks which interest me. What interests me are the causes of this accident. There were 500 who are active on this. The ASA of the air transport were controlling the security of this site, which, I'd remind you, is extremely difficult to access. Only by cable from a helicopter, and it's difficult because each of the investigators have to be on the site with rock climbing shoe gear because the ground is -- tends to disintegrate. It's a very difficult disaster area.

I'm not in the head of the co-pilot. I can't answer your question. I'm simply -- well, I believe we have a duty to be transparent, as the transport minister has just said. And those families, which were receiving to try to understand what's going on and subsequently to go and reflect, and on the place where in three languages, French, German, and Spanish, was set up yesterday. I think there was a duty to be transparent, and I wanted to do it because I believe that the victims deserve the public prosecutor giving them explanation on what has been going on to date.

The families have been informed with respect to all the information I've given you is the same. How did they react? They asked many questions. On international regulations, on was it normal for the captain to leave the cockpit? Well, they asked many questions. What legal consequences might there be for the airline?

[08:05:07] Well, I'm not at that stage for the legal consequences to the airline. We have a dossier which we've had for 48 hours. I'm now giving you our investigation as it is, and it's already quite quick. We found the black box. We've made use of it, maybe with some delay, in my view maybe a bit too long because I expected to get it earlier in the afternoon. And now, we're going to continue our investigation. We're not going to stop with what we've got today. We've got to find the second black box. We've got to continue to get the victims' bodies away. And I also want the file on the aircraft maintenance. It had full maintenance in 2013 and some maintenance the day before.

And I had to do all of the control that's my duty to carry out. And maybe there'll be further -- there'll be some other inquiry. And in due course I'll have to call on two investigating magistrates to continue to determine what is the truth on this.

But as I'm speaking to you now, the truth that we seem to see during the night is considerable progress in terms of discovering what happened.

QUESTION: Can you give us maybe the profile of the co-pilot?

ROBIN: Well, let me tell you. All I know at the moment is that he was fully qualified to pilot the aircraft on his own. He had all the certificates and he was equipped to do it. Well, the captain had 10,000 hours of flight, 10 years at Lufthansa, much more experience. After all, that's why he's the captain. And the other one had been working for a few months only with 100 hours of flight on that aircraft or type of aircraft. But that's all I know at the moment. But I hope to discover more.

I don't remember his age -- 30s, 40s. Forgive me. I should have checked, but I don't have it.

QUESTION: Among the victims' families was there the family of the co- pilot? ROBIN: No, they came -- they had a different path to follow. I

explained to them how DNA -- well, I propose if they so wish when they're in the chapel of rest, specialized teams, he's in charge of the identification, he'll be available for mothers and fathers, maybe brothers and sisters to give their DNA to accelerate the DNA comparisons with what we discovered or find.

Families, those who came by plane should go back tonight. But I fear there may be some delay. Well, the airbus is quite a large aircraft. It's an A-320. It's a big aircraft, so passengers are not right next to the cockpit door. So we hear some screams only at the end. That's what I told you. The screams are in the last instance. And I'd remind you that the death was instantaneous because the aircraft at 700 kilometers an hour going into the mountain, well, you've seen the pictures.

Look, I've said before, I've only had this information since the middle of the night. I'm going to think upon it with my colleagues on possible changes to make to the description of the investigation in the coming hours. We haven't done it at the moment.

I don't know. I don't have an answer to your question. The two families of the captain and co-pilot have arrived. But they haven't been put with the other families. They've been separately. I won't say any more on that.

Well, I know it's been mentioned in the media. As I'm speaking to you now, in my view, there is nothing to suggest a terrorist attack. Let's be clear on that, because from the beginning everybody's talking terrorism.

[08:10:00] As of now, now, with all the investigation that I'm aware of, there is nothing to allow us to say that it was a terrorist attack. But we'll see the circumstances of that person.

It's the French working closely with the legal and police authorities of Germany. They have made many requests. Just before I came to see you, the head of the ASR was trying to get data. If I had it, I'd give it to you. What about the Germany liaison officers? Well, there are significant contacts with our German counterparts. That's all I can say.

As usual, well, normally someone committing suicide does it on their own. That's why I don't talk about suicide. When you're responsible for 150 people behind you, I don't call that a suicide. That's why I didn't use the word. But, indeed, one might ask one's self quite a question. I understand.

Between 10:35 -- there was no contact between either the captain or co-pilot with the air traffic controllers, no contact. There were many calls from the Marseilles air traffic controllers, but there was no answer whatsoever, no answer to their many calls. Changing the transponder code, no answer. Alert with respect to the loss of altitude, no response.

I have the age of the co-pilot. I didn't have it before. He was 28. Twenty-eight. His first name, Andres, Lubitz, L-u-b-i-t-zed, 28. No, L-u, sorry, sorry, L-u-b-i-t-zed. Sorry if I got it wrong earlier. So forgive me, L-u-b-i-t-zed.

QUESTION: In your view, did the B.A. have this information?

ROBIN: I don't know. I only got this late last night, and also in the middle of the night. So this, I was made gradually aware of this. And it's only this morning that I got the last item of information to be specific. So it takes time. So I'm not criticizing anyone, but I regret sincerely and forcefully the fact that I, as head of the investigation, I didn't get such information in real-time. That's why I said somewhat late, I would like to get this in real-time because I want to save time on the investigation. It's just a regret. But for the rest, you know, it doesn't matter. It's your problem more than mine.

I haven't personally heard the sound recording. But I have the minutes, minute-by-minute. It was in Germany, it was translated, of course. No, I didn't do this. I'm repeating myself. I've only become aware of this. I understand your impatience, wishing to progress. But I have legal and procedural rules to follow. And at the moment I think that in 48 hours, we've done pretty well.

QUESTION: Will they be questioned by the French Gendarm (ph) one day?

ROBIN: Of course. What I imagined before, they'll be questioned by the German authorities.

[08:15:05] We'll see when I finish with you.

QUESTION: Can you say a bit more about the families' questions? How did you feel?

ROBIN: Well, the families were in shock because they just heard what happened. They found it difficult to believe. I tried to give them answers. It took at least an hour, an hour and a quarter.

I tried to answer as best I could. Some questions were too technical having to do with international civil aviation rules which I couldn't answer. But for the rest, I answered them as I'm answering you.

Well, was there a question in terms of the legal aspect with respect to the airline? There was one question, but it's a bit early. There's apparently an individual mistake or action that is the company legally responsible? I don't know, that can be dealt with later.


ROBIN: Is that OK?

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: All right. We're going to dip out here now because it seems that the questions are wrapping up. We're going to continue to monitor this press conference. If there's any more relevant information going on or dialogue, we'll get back to it.

However, here is your headline. It is no longer speculation according to investigators -- that's a French prosecutor leading the investigation -- into what happened with Flight 9525. It is believed by investigators that the captain was locked out of the cockpit by the co-pilot and that the co-pilot deliberately caused this airplane to crash.

It is not being called suicide. It is not being called terrorism. But it's also not being called an accident or something that was medically involved or induced. Why? Because the prosecutor says the man was heard breathing, the co-pilot, the entire time, but was nonresponsive and he had to do something to lock the door, to keep the captain out.

So, we now have a lot of information to work with here. What were the headlines and the big ticket items for both of you?

I'll start with you, David.

DAVID SOUCIE, CNN SAFETY ANALYST: The fact he not only had to do the locking mechanism consciously and aware, he also had to dial in and change his rate of descent. So, that's two different movements, but yet he's unresponsive to the other activities? That's really clue, key for me.


RICHARD QUEST, CNN AVIATION CORRESPONDENT: What we heard is the key to what this has been about. He locked the door once the captain had left. If you listen to what the prosecutor said, he locked the door once the captain had left. He then activated the descent, in the words of the prosecutor, he activated it in a way that would require several movements. It was -- to deny the idea it was medical -- he fell on the button, no. The prosecutor said it took several clicks of the button to activate and he then said and did nothing.

I've read it again and again. Not a word, no response, silence. But he's breathing. Nothing to say --

MICHAELA PEREIRA, CNN ANCHOR: And that's so shocking. If there's any room to think there might have been an emergency or something unplanned, but you'd hear him not say a word. You hear him not say a word, but he's heard breathing normally. That's the other questions asked, David, was perhaps, was he having a heart attack or some sort of problem, but he was heard having steady, normal breath.

SOUCIE: Which is strange, too. Look at what he's doing. He's endangering the lives of 150 people. How can you just sit there and calmly breathe and not --

CUOMO: A little bit of a gray area on that. You know, give the prosecutor his due, he's putting out a lot of information. But the idea of him saying what the breathing means about the person --

QUEST: What he said, what he said was the breathing did not sound like he was having a medical emergency. It wasn't labored. There was no other --

CUOMO: Didn't sound like a stroke, he said.

QUEST: No, no extra noises.

SOUCIE: Sanjay was talking about that last night.

PEREIRA: But also very interesting. And it is absolutely grisly to talk about, but the fact that it wasn't until the very end that they heard screams. The very, very end.

CUOMO: Who screams?

CAMEROTA: The passengers.

PEREIRA: The passengers.

CUOMO: Did he say passengers?

CAMEROTA: He sort of did. What he said was, people have asked if the passengers onboard knew what was happening. And all I can tell you is if they did, it wasn't until the very end. Because only in the last few moments of this flight do you hear screams.

QUEST: And I'll tell you what that also tells me is that there must have been horrific because they weren't screams -- you're talking about the cockpit voice recorders and the microphones picking up screams in the cabin.

[08:20:13] Behind the locked --

CUOMO: If that's what he meant.

QUEST: Behind the locked door.

SOUCIE: By context, I think you're right. I think that is what he meant. And what would've prompted that, just in the experience of flying, you wouldn't have known you were in imminent danger until you get below the peaks which is about where they would have been.

CUOMO: We were discussing early on. The guy was banging on the door.

PEREIRA: Right. So my thought was --

CUOMO: The door's right there.

PEREIRA: We were told it happened. So you look at the debris field. And the debris field is -- the plane was pulverized.

So, it happened instantaneously, and we believe there was no suffering. Yet, if a pilot is banging on the door of a cockpit, that is going to grab your attention, especially in an only two-hour flight, one in the middle of the day. This is not an overnight. This is not a red eye.

SOUCIE: Right.

QUEST: But I'm guessing what we're talking about when the prosecutor talks about screaming, we're talking about ferocious large screaming by a lot of number of people that would've managed to penetrate through and be picked up on the cockpit --

PEREIRA: That's a good point, actually, to get through that security.

QUEST: You're right. You're talking about, you know, dozens of people that may have been at that point in extremis --

CUOMO: All right. For these victims' families, people can figure that part out on their own. There's a lot of unknowns worth pursuing, though. We'll leave the screams and the processing. You can get that for yourself.

CAMEROTA: Here was another astonishing portion of this press conference. He said they could hear the audio from the beginning of the flight, when things are going normally, when the co-pilot and pilot are speaking to each other. And it's just the usual sort of mundane exchanges of what they're going to do.

However, there was something notable. When the pilot begins talking about the checklist they have to go through for what will happen when landing, the co-pilot, he said, is less engaged and is giving shorter answers. And it was notable to the prosecutor that something had shifted.

PEREIRA: Is that protocol? Short answers? If you're going through a checklist.

QUEST: The prosecutor's implying, of course, that since the first officer knew the plane wasn't going to get to its destination, why bother giving any answers?


CAMEROTA: It was something decided.

SOUCIE: I don't read a lot into that. I spent thousands of hours observing pilots doing their job. That's typical, because that checklist is for something you will go over again on your descent checklist. So, it's not necessarily odd that happened. I think he's stretching that.

CUOMO: One point of distinction, though, between, let's say us, and this prosecutor, OK? Sometimes you'll say, you're speculating, getting ahead of the proof. That's for you to decide. That's what investigators do.

So, for -- to hear this prosecutor from France saying this is what I think the breathing meant, this is what I think about this, it is speculative because that's how they move investigations forward by deciding what to pursue.

Now, this co-pilot, the prosecutor kept saying, hey, I just got this information late last night. But here's what he knows -- they know the name of the co-pilot. It's Andreas Lubitz. He's a German, German national working for a German company, leaving their religion. He said, I don't know, I'll get back to you. Again, he said, I just learned this information.

He said he was 28 years old. Said he had 600 hours and that became important to David Soucie.

SOUCIE: It did.

CUOMO: This has been a little bit of confusion for us in figuring it out because the rules in Europe and specifically this airline, not what we're used to here in terms of how many people have to be in a cockpit and who is allowed to be a co-pilot. Explain.

SOUCIE: Following Colgan Air accident in 2010, the rules were changed. Just in July of 2013, as of that point, to be a co-pilot, you have to have an air transport pilot rating. Before that, you just had to have a commercial rating, which only requires 250 hours. Now, to be in that cockpit, to fly this aircraft commercially for an airline, you have to have 1,500 hours to be a co-pilot.

So, in the United States -- now, I'm not saying that this has anything to do with the accident because apparently experience isn't what's being in question here. But, however, it was important to note that there's no international standard for this. It points out that each country have their own standards within a very limited standard with ICAO and IATA. But those standards are not consistent across the United States.

That's what I think the latent causes of these things are, is where are the rules?

PEREIRA: It's interesting, too, and the prosecutor mentioned the fact that, you know, the French are investigating, but they're also participating with the German authorities and will be up to the German authorities to give more context into who this individual, a German national, 28 years old, you mentioned who worked for a German company and lived in Germany.

But is it unprecedented they would wait 48 hours to release this information? Because we remember in all of the other airline disasters we've covered together, quickly identified the pilots, and there was a lot of focus on them.

QUEST: They've done this because the cat's out of the bag. And the nature of what has happened. I mean, this is -- this is so extraordinary.

[08:25:01] A 28-year-old co-pilot inexperienced, but seemingly a member of a flying club in Germany where they have glowing reports of him who has been -- who I'm just getting some information now has been recognized, who is -- the FAA recognized him, with inclusion in the certificate data. He got his certification.

SOUCIE: So he has his commercial license.


SOUCIE: He doesn't have his air transport pilot license. QUEST: Correct.

SOUCIE: And that's a different --

QUEST: And what on earth would lead this young co-pilot, first officer, to commit this heinous act. That, we have got absolutely --

CUOMO: Investigator says I'm not using the word suicide.

SOUCIE: Right.

CUOMO: But his reasoning for that was a little unusual. He didn't say it because -- because he didn't just kill himself. But we have murder/suicides all the time. He also wouldn't use the word terrorism. He says, I have no information to point at that.

PEREIRA: Right. But he also said as of yet. Did you notice that?

CUOMO: Yes. He just got the information.

CAMEROTA: But he's saying that it is a deliberate attempt to destroy the aircraft?

QUEST: And he says, forgive me reading -- he says when you're responsible for 150 people behind you, you don't call it suicide.

CAMEROTA: Can we get back to the cockpit and it being locked? And if you can ever override that? Because he addressed it a little bit.

So, the co-pilot was inside and the door was locked. But there is that key pad. Why couldn't the pilot override the lock?

SOUCIE: Because once the pilot inside pushes it to the locked position --

CAMEROTA: Pushes the lever, moves the lever to a locked --

SOUCIE: It disables the ability to use that pad for five minutes. It's an important period of time.

CAMEROTA: It is because it was an eight-minute long descent.

QUEST: Nobody's going to be standing outside thinking, you know, oh, it's locked, I've only got to wait five minutes before I can get in. And even if you do, the mechanism of telling you the five minutes is up is a little light that just goes out.

So, what happens is, taking what we heard from the prosecutor -- this is not speculation, this is taking what we heard from the prosecutor -- the captain leaves the flight deck. The co-pilot locks the door, with the pedestal button. The captain, we believe, there is now no way that anybody can re-enter that cockpit for a minimum of -- maximum of five minutes.

During that period -- SOUCIE: I want to point out before we go into this, we get a lot of

heat because are we divulging secrets. Are we teaching them how to get into this?

Listen, if our safety management system in the airlines relies on secrets, it's not good. That's a good thing, because secrets come out. They do.

So, what's important to recognize here is these safety systems are fail safe safety systems and procedures. So when we talk about these things, we're not divulging secrets.

PEREIRA: Because there are things kept secret, correct?

SOUCIE: Not necessarily, because the design is to ensure it cannot physically happen, OK?

QUEST: The key thing missing in this entire saga is why a second person wasn't required to go into the cockpit when the captain left.

CAMEROTA: And that's the protocol?

CUOMO: In the U.S., it is.

QUEST: In the U.S. and it is not. And I've talked to European pilots this morning. And they make it quite clear that in their airline, it is not the protocol for a second -- to the usual protocol, oxygen to the headphones, to be on radio and all that sort of stuff. But it is not the protocol to go a second person.

CAMEROTA: Well, how would a flight attendant being in the cockpit have helped anyway?

QUEST: Well, arguably, she could've opened the door. She could've opened the door first of all.

SOUCIE: In there with that person. Less likely -- every single suicide attempt.

CUOMO: Well, we kept saying she, how do we know?


SOUCIE: Thanks for that.

CUOMO: Plenty of women would've done plenty of things to stop it --

PEREIRA: But the idea is that they would have potentially interrupted a plot --

QUEST: A, he may not have done it, B, the flight attendant could've opened the door or stopped. Yes, you're right, the person in the cockpit wouldn't have necessarily known he was about to start a descent.

SOUCIE: I think there's a transcending point here, and that is that all of these countries are different. Why?

If I jump in an airplane here, why am I less safe going to Europe than I am there? Because these procedures aren't there. Or, maybe they have procedures that we don't have in the United States, as well.

So, I'm not faulting them. I'm saying that is a systemic problem. This is something that there is no international authority to set regulations like the FAA does and the European associations do. There is no that.

What we do is come up with this safety management system that's a set of chains. Each country can say I want this link, this link, this link. But none of them safe.

CUOMO: It's not uniform.

SOUCIE: That's part of the frustration.

The other part is that we'll keep discussing throughout the morning is this system is designed to keep people out of the cockpit. It's not designed to keep someone from staying in the cockpit. So, you know, this was a little bit of being frustrated by your own efforts.

But there's a lot of information here.