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Andreas Lubitz co-pilot of the fatal Germanwings flight
Andreas Lubitz co-pilot of the fatal Germanwings flight
Blogs and social media has been abuzz with talk of a supposed “German news report” indicating that Andreas Lubitz, the co-pilot of Germanwings flight 9525, was a Muslim convert. In fact, there is no such report. The rumor that Lubitz converted to Islam got started on the German site Politically Incorrect. In the American blogosphere, Politically Incorrect is being cited as a “German news website.” It is not a news site, however, but rather is an overtly anti-Islamic blog/forum. The confusion apparently arose from the site’s url: www.pi-news.net.

Given the orientation of the site and reports that Germanwings 9525 was intentionally crashed by the co-pilot, it is hardly surprising that commentators on Politically Incorrect would speculate about whether Lubitz was a Muslim. Reference was made in particular to a blog post by a site regular named Michael Mannheimer. Mannheimer’s post contains no evidence that Lubitz was a Muslim convert, but just more speculation. Mannheimer’s conjecture is based on such apparently suspicious details as the fact that Lubitz did flight training in Bremen and Bremen is also home to a mosque known for its radicalism. In fairness to Politically Incorrect, it should be noted that several commentators on the site have themselves rejected the speculations in Mannheimer’s post as unfounded, including one who remarked that he “must have been very drunk” when he wrote it.

Related American posts have also made reference to newly minted Facebook pages celebrating Lubitz in an Islamist vein. But of obviously greater relevance is Lubitz’s own Facebook page. That page has been taken down, but a Google cache of the entry page (i.e. without timeline entries) is still availablehere. It contains no trace of any interest in Islam. It does, however, feature the now famous photo of Lubitz posing in front of the Golden State Bridge, as well as a banner photo of New York’s Times Square. Lubitz is known to have done training and travelled in the United States, and it is clear from his Facebook page that he was an admirer of the country. This hardly fits the standard profile of an Islamist – no more so than Lubitz’s evident enthusiasm for techno musicians like the French DJ/producer David Guetta.

We will undoubtedly learn more about Lubitz’s life in the days and weeks to come. But the supposed “German news report” does not exist and for the moment, there is no reason whatsoever to believe that he was a Muslim convert.

Not fit to fly

According to a Guardian newspaper source who knew Lubitz well Lufthansa had sent him on a training course, initially in Bremen and then in Phoenix, Arizona, in the US.

For 24 hours French and German investigators had been at a loss: why would a 27-year-old co-pilot deliberately fly his plane with 150 people on board into the French Alps? This, certainly, is where the black box pointed. By Friday there were uncomfortable answers. Lubitz had a history of psychological problems, which he had apparently been concealing from his colleagues and bosses.

State prosecutors in Düsseldorf said medical documents had been retrieved from his flat there, which suggested that treatment for an unspecified illness was ongoing.

“The assumption is that the deceased hid his illness from his employer and his professional circles,” prosecutors said, without specifying whether the illness was mental or physical. They added that no suicide note had been found. Nor were there indications of a “political or religious background”.

At one point the Lufthansa flight school in Phoenix designated Lubitz as “not fit to fly”. He spent a year-and-a-half receiving psychiatric treatment. In 2009 he was diagnosed with a “severe depressive episode”, according to the German newspaper Bild.

Throughout this difficult period it appeared Lubitz was getting regular medical help. A special coding “SIC” was entered into his pilot’s licence, which means “Specific Regular Medical Examination”, according to Germany’s Federal Aviation Office. It is unclear, though, if this treatment was for episodes of depressive illness or some other complaint. Mental health professionals have urged caution until all the facts are known.

The co-pilot lived with his parents some of the time as well as at his small flat in Düsseldorf. The two-storey house is a model of order. Large, it has a pleasant balcony. The garden is immaculately tended. It has daffodils, ornamental shrubs, and a perfectly trimmed hedge. Someone has stacked the garden gnomes neatly by the back shed.

Lubitz’s father is a banker; his mother an organist who plays at the local evangelical church. He has a younger brother. The Lubitzs appear to come from the more prosperous end of the German middle class.

For a year before embarking on a career as a pilot, Andreas Lubitz worked in his local branch of Burger King, serving up french fries. The restaurant – on a busy A3 junction – is a few kilometres outside the small German city of Montabaur where Lubitz grew up. The branch manager, Detlef Aldolf, described Lubitz on Friday as dependable and inconspicuous. “I’m totally shocked,” he said. ‘I can’t believe it. Nobody would have expected him to do something this evil.”

While the full picture surrounding Lubitz’s mental state is unclear, these are terrible times for Lufthansa which has to prove that he was 100% fit to fly.

Weekly Standard/ The Guardian/YL

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