I’m Joshua Hammer, and I just spent the last few months trying to figure out what really happened on Germanwings 9525—when 27-year-old pilot Andreas Lubitz intentionally crashed an airliner with 144 passengers onboard into the French Alps. I interviewed the families of the victims, first responders to the scene, and many other people closely involved in the impending lawsuit, and I wrote up my findings in this story for GQ that pieced together the whole incident from start to finish.

Ask me anything about what happened that day, and the legal fight the families are now in to try and get compensation from the airline.


Comments: 110 • Responses: 15  • Date: 

eylonvakrat31 karma

Hey Joshua! You are remembered in Israel as a reporter that has been kidnapped in Gaza strip. You said you had an excellent meal there, what did you eat?

JoshuaHammerGQ29 karma

Gee, I'm hope I'm remembered for more than that! Hummus, tabouli, lamb and pita, fresh green salad and some excellent baklavah, as I remember

mrwiffington16 karma

Joshua, you've followed this story so closely, have you discovered anything that you really didn't expect to?

And what is the biggest thing you've taken away from your investigation?

JoshuaHammerGQ42 karma

Shock at the clear culpability of Lubitz's doctors. It was astonishing to me that he saw dozens of physicians- ophthalmologists, neurologists, and psychiatrists- during those horrific last months of his life, and his psychosis was clear to many of them. Yet nobody said a damned word. The whole thing continues to make me sick.

GreyNietzsche14 karma

Has your view on depression and psychological problems changed in the last few months?

JoshuaHammerGQ15 karma

It's changed the way I've thought about Lubitz. Like many people I was filled with loathing not only for the crime, but for the pilot who took so many lives along with his own. The more I read about his deteriorating mental condition- spelled out with such clarity in the german prosecutor's report, which was leaked to me as I was reporting the article- the more pity and empathy, I felt for this guy. He was clearly going down a deep, dark hole, a place that nobody who hasn't experienced depression could hope to fathom.

abstractartifact9911 karma

What precautions have been put in place to reduce the chance of this sort of thing from happening again? Are these changes limited to Lufthansa/GermanWings?

JoshuaHammerGQ10 karma

I think I've answered this above, and I would stipulate that it should be an industry-wide reform, certainly not limited to the Germans

SputtleTuts7 karma

What do you think is the most effective, feasible solution to prevent something like this from happening again?

JoshuaHammerGQ14 karma

Not to beat a dead horse, but the BEA's recommendations about reforming those doctor-confidentiality laws, and putting more responsibility on airlines and aviation authorities to monitor their pilots' psychological states, seems about the best one could hope for

tiamdi7 karma

Have you listened to the black box recording?

JoshuaHammerGQ6 karma

Fragments of it.

GISP6 karma

Why did you investigate?
Dont all planecrashes get looked into in the smallest details eg. why not just read the report?

JoshuaHammerGQ7 karma

OK, I'm online now, sorry for the delay-- waylaid by the US's switch to Daylight Savings Time (I'm in Berlin)… I investigated the case partly because I live in Germany, and was of course caught up in the wall-to-wall coverage of the case at the time it happened. As time passed I felt that the world had moved on to the next tragedies, and that a lot of questions remained unanswered. I wanted to a return to a story that had pretty much fallen off the world's radar screen and try to figure out what really happened…

dusky1866 karma

What was the most exciting event/thing during your investigation? What was the most boring thing during your investigation?

JoshuaHammerGQ8 karma

Probably getting my hands on the Dusseldorf prosecutor's investigation files, which lay out Lubitz's descent into madness in utterly chilling detail…Also joining the French gendarme at the crash site in the Alps, and having him recreate the moment when he discovered the black box… Nothing boring about this assignment at all...

dusky1860 karma

Awesome! Those are all stuff I look forwarding to reading about from the articles you published. :)

Also you cannot say nothing was boring! What about the food? Or maybe the weather? >_<;

JoshuaHammerGQ5 karma

Long rides on Deutsche Bahn trains across Germany, I suppose… But even those aren't too bad, you can catch up on your reading

Hullian1114 karma

What are the latest developments right now?

JoshuaHammerGQ7 karma

The BEA report that was released on Sunday, the continuing criminal investigation by the French and German prosecutors, and the impending filing of a lawsuit in the United States by more than 100 families of the passengers on the Germanwings flight.

truthaboutcs4 karma

What do you think about the movie Predator?

JoshuaHammerGQ6 karma

Haven't seen it… What'd I miss?

Frajer3 karma

What could have prevented this tragedy?

JoshuaHammerGQ2 karma

the BEA correctly pointed out that Germany's privacy laws and patient-doctor confidentiality laws need to be rethought. Had Lubitz's psychiatrists been obliged to come forward and share what they knew with Lufthansa/ the German aviation authorities - especially his longtime psychiatrist in Montabaur, his home town, who had recognised his suicidal tendencies yet said nothing - this terrible tragedy might have been avoid.

unmined2 karma

Thank you for this haunting and gripping view of this crime. I've wondered in the past on if the FAA, or any other authority, had a blanket policy of allowing commercial pilot from flying while being treated with psych. meds, or if the treatment and flight status was in the hands of the patients' medical team. Secondarily, do you or any of your sources posit that the attitudes toward mental health issues might prevent pilots from seeking help in crisis because it could a career-ending move?

JoshuaHammerGQ5 karma

Hey, glad you like the piece and thanks for these excellent questions. I can't answer to the question of FAA or German Aviation Authority's longstanding policies… I do know that in the case of Lubitz, his return to flight school in Bremen was predicated on his psychiatrist's writing a note certifying that Lubitz was fully cured and off his meds. We know now that this was a lie… As to the second question, yes, definitely, several of my legal sources believe that pilots often lie about their psychological problems because they fear it would derail their careers. Moreover, it's very easy to do. The verification process is, to say the least, weak or even non-existent

organicdoughnut2 karma

Do you think the BEA's recommendation that pilots with previous mental health issues should be more closely monitored will be honored by airlines going forward?

JoshuaHammerGQ4 karma

Tough to judge. Airlines have been warned about their lax monitoring in the past- witness the recent UN report that I cite in the GQ piece- without tightening up their procedures. It may be that the horrific Germanwings crash and the BEA recommendations will finally force a reckoning. I certainly hope so.

alberto_811 karma

Very good article! On military field the use of drones is very increased on last years. Do you think we will going to use remote controlled vehicle even in civil sector, in a next future? It might to be one of the few technological resource to avoid cases like this, or we have other tech possibilities to prevent destructive actions of the pilot?

JoshuaHammerGQ5 karma

Better ask Elon Musk about that… He probably has a better handle on pilotless commercial aircraft than I do…