Germanwings Flight 4U9525

Earlier this morning the BBC’s Bill Turnbull had the opportunity to interview aviation expert Maverick Smith about what might have happened to Germanwings Flight 4U9535 which tragically crashed in the French Alps yesterday, killing all on board.


 

Bill Tunbull
Bill Turnbull

 

Thanks for joining us Maverick. Obviously this is a tragedy but given your knowledge is there any chance you could shed some light on what possibly occurred?

 

 

 

Maverick Smith
Maverick Smith

 

Well of course it’s too early to speculate. Thankfully they seem to have found one of the airplane’s black boxes, either the CVR or the FDR so we should have a better idea pretty soon. The boxes will be being analysed as we speak.

 

 

 

turn

 

Sure, but we know the plane reached it’s cruising altitude and then almost immediately began to descend. What would have caused that?

 

 

aviator

 

Again, that will hopefully be revealed when they analyse the data. It really is too early to speculate. Clearly something’s gone wrong but it could be anything. Engine failure or a fire or-

 

turn

 

A fire! What would that be like? You’re thousands of metres in the sky and the pressurised vessel you’re in catches fire. What would that be like? Could you paint us a picture of what people – the pilots – would be going through?

 

aviator

 

Well there are procedures, check-lists that the flight crew would have to work through for most situations.

 

 

turn

 

And that could explain the lack of a mayday?

 

 

aviator

 

It could, pilots are trained to fly the plane first and foremost, then, if time, they will call an emergency.

 

 

turn

 

So they were probably so busy trying to rescue the plane that they didn’t have a chance to radio? They were so focussed on trying to save the plane?

 

 

aviator

 

It’s certainly possible.

 

 

turn

 

Eight minutes the descent took. That’s quite a long time. Do you think the pilots were screaming? Praying?

 

 

aviator

 

This particular crew were experienced, I’d imagine that they were doing their best to save the plane right until…

 

 

turnbull sad

 

Until the impact.

 

 

aviator

 

Yeah.

 

 

turnbull sad

 

Until the plane was dashed to a million tiny pieces on the mountain side. Obliterating flesh and machine alike?

 

 

aviator

 

Yeah.

 

 

turn

 

For those eight minutes, and I appreciate it’s too early to speculate, but for those eight minutes let’s say the pilots are struggling for their lives. Would the passengers have known what was happening?

 

aviator

 

Tough to say but we know the rate of descent was well within the limits of the airplane. It would not have felt any different, to the passengers, than that of a normal descent.

 

turn

 

Sure, but looking out of the window and seeing mountains. They’d have known there were no nearby airports.

 

 

aviator

 

Perhaps.

 

 

turn

 

You don’t have airports up mountains. So they’d know something was badly wrong. Would the passengers start screaming? Could you paint that picture for us. Maybe one person started screaming and it spread?

 

aviator

 

I really think it’s too early-

 

 

turnThere were two babies on board, a group of children. They must have been screaming. Perhaps an elderly couple just hugged each other. Gripped hands with each other and closed their eyes tight with all the screaming going on around them. The chaperones for the children trying to remain calm. Trying to suggest things were okay but inside they’d be screaming too. Do you think that’s a likely scenario?

aviator

 

I… erm…

 

 

turn

 

Of course it’s too early to speculate but even those who didn’t know what was going on, when the plane was nearly touching the mountains then, then they must have started screaming.

 

aviator

 

I suppose.

 

 

turn

 

What would their screams be like? Would even the men be screaming or would you expect a more stoic reaction? As grim realisation of their imminent doom set in?

 

aviator

 

 

 

turn

 

Of course it’s too early to speculate but let’s assume the flight crew burnt or were suffocated in the cockpit, the plane gradually lost height and hit a mountain amid howls of pure despair. Does the plane’s age play a part in that? It was 25 years old.

aviator

 

There are a lot of scenarios. The plane itself is a workhorse of the industry. Obviously they’re well maintained.

 

 

turn

 

Sure, but it could have just fallen apart because it was old. And regardless, it’s pretty safe to say for eight minutes people on that plane went through abject terror as the old plane dropped like a tombstone.

 

 
aviator

 

It’s a bad thing but really we can’t-

 

 

turn

 

It is, just thinking about it is almost too much. But if you could just try and paint a picture for us of just how frightened people were. The scramble in the cockpit as the pilots wrestled with the controls before succumbing to the inevitable.

aviator

 

If we wait for the report w-

 

 

turn

 

 

Muslims?

 

 
aviator

 

There’s nothing yet to-

 

 

turn

 

Well, that’s very interesting. Thanks for painting such a vivid picture of what these poor souls went through. It’s worth remembering, of course, that flying is inherently safe.

 

aviator

 

Of course. You’ve more chance of winning the lottery.

 

 

turnbull sad

 

Though you could say these people won the death lottery.

 

 

aviator

 

 

 

turn

 

Indeed. Well, thanks again for your time. Now, before we find out what the weather has in store for us it’s over to Steph McGovern at Dusseldorf Airport who is filming the relatives of the dead. Steph, are you there?

 

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Hi Bill!