Patrick Sonderheimer, Germanwings Captain: 5 Fast Facts You Need to Know

A screengrab taken from an AFP TV video on March 24, 2015 shows search and rescue personnel near scattered debris while making their way through the crash site of the Germanwings Airbus A320 that crashed in the French Alps above the southeastern town of Seyne. The plane, which had taken off from Barcelona in Spain and was headed for Dusseldorf in Germany, crashed earlier in the day with 150 people onboard. (Getty)

A screengrab taken from an AFP TV video on March 24, 2015 shows search and rescue personnel near scattered debris while making their way through the crash site of the Germanwings Airbus A320 that crashed in the French Alps above the southeastern town of Seyne. The plane, which had taken off from Barcelona in Spain and was headed for Dusseldorf in Germany, crashed earlier in the day with 150 people onboard. (Getty)

Patrick Sonderheimer has been identified as the captain of the crashed Germanwings Flight 9525, which the French prosecutor says was intentionally brought down by Sonderheimer’s co-pilot, Andreas Lubitz, in the French Alps, killing all 144 passengers and six crew members, including three Americans.

The plane was headed March 24 from Barcelona, Spain to Dusseldorf, Germany, and crashed about 70 miles away from Nice, France. The crash happened just after the last normal contact with air traffic control and not long after the plane had reached its cruising altitude.

Sonderheimer and Lubitz are both from Germany.

Here’s what you need to know:


1. Sonderheimer Was Locked Out of the Cockpit

French prosecutor of Marseille Brice Robin (C), flanked by General David Galtier (R), speaks to the press on March 26, 2015 in Marignane airport near the French southern city of Marseille.  (Getty)

French prosecutor of Marseille Brice Robin (C), flanked by General David Galtier (R), speaks to the press on March 26, 2015 in Marignane airport near the French southern city of Marseille. (Getty)

The New York Times reports that the plane’s captain, Sonderheimer, was trying to break down the cockpit door before the crash. The Times reports that an audio recording on the plane reveals Sonderheimer left the cockpit and then was not able to return. An investigator, whose name was not released, told the Times:

The guy outside is knocking lightly on the door, and there is no answer. And then he hits the door stronger, and no answer. There is never an answer. You can hear he is trying to smash the door down. We don’t know yet the reason why one of the guys went out. But what is sure is that at the very end of the flight, the other pilot is alone and does not open the door.

French officials said the captain left the cockpit to use the bathroom.

“He waited for the aircraft to reach a certain flight level,” Lufthansa Airlines CEO Carsten Spohr. He said the airline’s policy allows for the captain to leave the cockpit to use the bathroom or for other reasons, and it is typically done during a time of low stress.

Spohr said Lubitz was trained to fly the plane.


2. French Officials Say Sonderheimer’s Co-Pilot Was Alive Before the Crash

andreas lubitz, germanwings flight 9525, crash, suicide, murder, terrorism

Co-pilot Andreas Lubitz (Twitter)

French Prosecutor Brice Robin said during a press conference Thursday that co-pilot Andrea Lubitz, a 28-year-old German, deliberately crashed the plane. He could be heard breathing normally and not allowing Sonderheimer back into the cockpit.

Lubitz appeared to initiate the plane’s descent, the prosecutor said.

Germanwings officials said it is possible for someone to completely block access to the cockpit on the Airbus A320.

“It’s obvious this co-pilot took advantage of the commander’s absence. Could he have known he would leave? It is too early to say,” Robin said at a press conference.

According to the Times, there were normal conversations heard on the cockpit audio recorder prior to the captain leaving. Robin said the co-pilot’s responses sounded “curt” during a discussion about the planned landing of the plane in Dusseldorf.


3. Sonderheimer Had Been a Pilot for More Than 10 Years

An Airbus plane of German airline Lufthansa (top) and a plane of the company's Germanwings subsidiary are pictured at the Duesseldorf airport on March 26, 2015 in Duesseldorf, western Germany.  (Getty)

An Airbus plane of German airline Lufthansa (top) and a plane of the company’s Germanwings subsidiary are pictured at the Duesseldorf airport on March 26, 2015 in Duesseldorf, western Germany. (Getty)

Germany’s largest newspaper, Bild, reported that the pilot, identified only as Patrick S. in its report, had more than 10 years experience with Lufthansa and Germanwings, with more than 6,000 flight hours.

According to the Telegraph, Sonderheimer started as a pilot with Lufthansa and Condor, before joining Germanwings in 2014.

Germanwings and Condor are partners of Lufthansa. He was trained at Lufthansa Flight Training School in Germany.


4. He Was Known as One of the Company’s ‘Best’ Pilots

(Getty)

(Getty)

A colleague, identified as “Dieter,” told Europe1 that Sonderheimer was a trusted pilot, saying:

He was someone very reliable, he was one of the best pilots we had. I am 100 percent sure they did the best they could. That’s what I think because I knew him very well, he was one of the best, he had a lot of experience, he had more than 6,000 flight hours behind him.


5. He Was the Father of 2 Children

An LCD display shows a black ribbon with the flightnumber of Germanwings 4U 9525 at the Duesseldorf airport on March 26, 2015 . (Getty)

An LCD display shows a black ribbon with the flightnumber of Germanwings 4U 9525 at the Duesseldorf airport on March 26, 2015 . (Getty)

According to Bild and Europe1, Sonderheimer was married and the father of two children. His co-worker, Dieter, told Europe 1 that Sonderheimer was a “good man” with a nice sense of humor.

11 Comments

11 Comments

Lasgirl

Could this Captain pilot have planned this ahead of time and left the cockpit at the pre programmed time after giving the co pilot something to knock him out, thus causing it to look as if it is the co pilot at fault?

Anonymous

Interesting but doesn’t fit in with what they know I.e. the co-pilot sets the descent when the pilot is looked our.

Anonymous

But it does fit! I have been thinking the same thing, it is possible that the pilot was actually not locked out and staged the entire thing, hence pinning it on the co pilot because he wanted to b the hero in the end. I assume this other black box will fill in the blanks…either way it is tragic.

Arun s

Interesting! I would imagine they would check that out if they even suspected Captain Sonderheimer would be capable or have a reason. Everything points to the copilot Lubitz, but its curiously possible, however remote that may be.

Yoga

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