Black Box Audio Offers Insight Into Plane Crash

Shedding more light on what exactly happened in the last moments before the tragic crash, the last minutes of audio from the Germanwings flight have been obtained. German tabloid newspaper Bild released a timeline summary of the audio, which it says it obtained from the data of one of the plane’s “black boxes,” and the audio was subsequently translated by CNN. The audio, which CNN emphasizes it cannot independently verify, corroborates the theory that the co-pilot, Andreas Lubitz, locked the pilot out of the cockpit when he went to the bathroom, and then intentionally crashed the plane.

At this point, the audio transcription released by Bild offers one of the most detailed accounts of what happened on the plane. CNN reports that it is unusual for “black box” audio to be leaked, as it’s considered to be some of the most sensitive information in the investigation of an aviation crash. Typically, an edited version of the transcript is only published as part of the final report. According to Bild, the voice recorder has about one and a half hours of audio on it, from takeoff to the moments the plane went down. Thirteen minutes after the plane’s captain can be heard pounding on the cockpit door and yelling to be let in, the plane crashes in the French Alps.

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The Bild timeline opens with the plane's 20-minute delay before takeoff. Capt. Patrick Sondenheimer apologizes for the delay and says that they will try to make up the lost time in the air. Even before takeoff, Sondenheimer tells Lubitz that he did not have a chance to go to the bathroom at the last stop in Barcelona, and Lubitz tells him he “can go anytime.”

At 10:27 a.m. local time, the plane reaches its cruising altitude, and later the captain asks Lubitz to prepare the landing. Lubitz then tells the captain once again, in regards to the restroom, “You can go now.” The pilot gets up and tells Lubitz to take over.

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At 10:29 a.m., the plane begins to descend. Three minutes later, air traffic controllers try to contact the plane, but get no answer. An alarm goes off in the cockpit saying, "sink rate," which means there is a rate of excessive descent, as notified by the plane's ground proximity warning system. Loud bangs can then be heard on the door, Bild reports, and the pilot can be heard yelling, “For God’s sake, open the door!”

At 10:35 a.m., Bild reports that there are “loud metallic bangs” on the door, as if someone was trying to knock the door down. Then, 90 seconds later, another alarm goes off: “Terrain — pull up!” This is another mode of the ground proximity warning system, and the alarm means there is a rate of excessive terrain closure. The pilot yells: “Open the damn door!”

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At 10:38 a.m., the plane begins its descent into the French Alps. The only sound at this point is the co-pilot’s breathing. Then, at 10:40 a.m., a sound like the scraping of the plane’s right wing on the mountaintop can be heard. Then the audio cuts out.

The rest of the story, unfortunately, we know all too well.

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