German police have seized possessions belonging to a co-pilot who apparently crashed his plane in the French Alps killing all 150 people on board, as they investigate his possible motives.
They said they had found a significant clue, according to media reports.
Data from the plane’s voice recorder suggest Mr Lubitz had deliberately started a descent while the pilot was locked out of the cockpit.
The Barcelona-Duesseldorf flight crashed on Tuesday.
Several airlines have now pledged to change their rules to ensure at least two crew members are present in the cockpit at all times.
The revelations by the German police come after officers searched Mr Lubitz’s flat in Duesseldorf and the house the 27-year-old shared with his parents in Montabaur, north of Frankfurt, late on Thursday.
A number of items were removed – including boxes and a computer – from the two properties.
“We have found something which will now be taken for tests. We cannot say what it is at the moment but it may be a very significant clue to what has happened,” the Daily Mail quoted police spokesman Markus Niesczery as saying.
However, police said the discovery was not a suicide note.
There were also unconfirmed reports in the German media that Mr Lubitz had suffered from depression.
Meanwhile, German government officials said Mr Lubitz was not known to the country’s security services.
Earlier, Carsten Spohr, the head of Lufthansa, the German carrier that owns Germanwings, said the co-pilot had undergone intensive training and “was 100% fit to fly without any caveats”.
Mr Spohr said Mr Lubitz’s training had been interrupted for several months six years ago, but did not say why.
The training was resumed after “the suitability of the candidate was re-established”, he said.
Members of the Westerwald flight club, where the co-pilot was a member, expressed their shock at the revelation.
“Andres was a very nice young man, who did his training here. He was part of the club,” Peter Reucker said.
“[He was] funny, sometimes a bit quiet, but apart from that a young man like many others that we have here. He integrated well.
“I’m absolutely speechless. I have no explanation for this,” Mr Reucker added.
On Thursday, Marseille prosecutor Brice Robin said the co-pilot appeared to want to “destroy the plane”.
Citing information from the recovered “black box” voice recorder, Mr Robin said Mr Lubitz was alone in the cockpit just before the crash.
Analysis: Richard Westcott, BBC transport correspondent
The focus now moves from the mechanics to the man flying the plane. An accident expert has told me the investigators will pore over the co-pilot’s background and that of his family too.
Did he owe money? Was there a grudge? They’ll look at his religion, whether he was in trouble with the law, whether he had a stable love life. This kind of event is rare but it has happened before, although the reasons vary widely.
After 9/11, they made cockpits impregnable. It keeps the terrorists out, but in the end it also allows someone to keep their colleagues out too. Airlines have to make a call. Which is the bigger threat – terrorism or suicide?
Mr Robin said there was “absolute silence in the cockpit” as the pilot fought to re-enter it.
Air traffic controllers made repeated attempts to contact the aircraft, the prosecutor added, but to no avail.
Passengers were not aware of the impending crash “until the very last moment” when screams could be heard, Mr Robin said, adding that they died instantly.
Andreas Lubitz: Germanwings co-pilot under scrutiny
- Started training in 2008, at Bremen and Arizona. Training was interrupted for some months – but he later passed all tests and was deemed fit to fly
- Working as co-pilot, or first officer, since 2013. Appeared pleased with his job
- Lived in town of Montabaur, near Frankfurt, reportedly with his parents. Kept a flat in Duesseldorf and had many friends
- Facebook profile suggests the active lifestyle of a keen runner, with an interest in pop music
“We hear the pilot ask the co-pilot to take control of the plane and we hear at the same time the sound of a seat moving backwards and the sound of a door closing,” the prosecutor said.
He said the pilot, named in the German media as Patrick S, had probably gone to the toilet.
Crash site close-ups
“At that moment, the co-pilot is controlling the plane by himself. While he is alone, the co-pilot presses the buttons of the flight monitoring system to put into action the descent of the aeroplane,” he added.
Mr Robin said “the most plausible interpretation” was that the co-pilot had deliberately barred the pilot from re-entering the cockpit.
Mr Lubitz was alive until the final impact, the prosecutor said.
Meanwhile, online tracking service Flightradar24 said satellite data it had analysed found that someone had changed the plane’s altitude from 38,000ft (11,582m) to 100ft – the minimum setting possible.
“Between 09:30:52 and 09:30:55 you can see that the autopilot was manually changed from 38,000ft to 100ft and nine seconds later the aircraft started to descend, probably with the ‘open descent’ autopilot setting,” Flightradar24 chief Fredrik Lindahl was quoted as saying by Reuters.
The second “black box” – that records flight data – has still not been found.
Other incidents thought to be caused by deliberate pilot action
- 29 November 2013: A flight between Mozambique and Angola crashed in Namibia, killing 33 people. Initial investigation results suggested the accident was deliberately carried out by the captain shortly after the first officer (also known as the co-pilot) had left the flight deck.
- 31 October 1999: An EgyptAir Boeing 767 went into a rapid descent 30 minutes after taking off from New York, killing 217 people. An investigation suggested that the crash was caused deliberately by the relief first officer but the evidence was not conclusive.
- 19 December 1997: More than 100 people were killed when a Boeing 737 travelling from Indonesia to Singapore crashed. The pilot – suffering from “multiple work-related difficulties” – was suspected of switching off the flight recorders and intentionally putting the plane into a dive.
Source: Aviation Safety Network