Suicide by Plane? Pilots' Intentional Crashes Are Rare

The Germanwings plane was not the first to be crashed deliberately.

The co-pilot of the Germanwings jet that crashed in the French Alps this week apparently brought down the plane deliberately, killing all 150 people aboard, officials said Thursday, as Tuesday's tragedy took a horrifying turn.

Andreas Lubitz, 27, appears to have intentionally flown the plane into the side of a mountain while he was alone at the controls, while the plane's pilot pounded on the locked cockpit door, officials said flight recordings showed.

Deliberate crashes of commercial passenger jets, while rare, are believed to have occurred before. Here are some of the most well-known of them. 

2013 — Mozambique Airlines Flight TM470
Bound for Angola from Mozambique, this flight went down in heavy rain in Namibia on Nov. 29, 2013. Mozambique aviation experts said they believed the crash, which killed all 33 people on board, was intentional. The pilot, Hermino dos Santos Fernandes, locked himself in the cockpit and refused to let the co-pilot back in until just before the plane hit the ground, the BBC reported.

1999 — EgyptAir Flight 990
This plane crashed into the ocean en route from New York City to Cairo on Oct. 31, 1999, killing all 203 passengers, four crew members and 10 flight attendants. A National Transportation Safety Board report released two years later blamed co-pilot Gamil al-Batouti’s "manipulation of the airplane controls"; U.S. investigators said he cut power to the engines, turned the plane down and repeated the phrase, "I rely on God." He had been demoted hours before the trip over accusations of sexual misconduct, The New York Times reported. Egypt's aviation authority charged, however, that American investigators had failed to consider evidence supporting the possibility that multiple failures in the airplane’s elevator control system may have caused the crash.

1997 — SilkAir Flight 185
A SilkAir airplane crashed into a river shortly after leaving the Indonesian capital, Jakarta, on Dec. 19, 1997, killing all 104 people on board. American investigators believe that the pilot acted deliberately, the BBC reported. The investigators said the pilot, Tsu Way Ming, did not try to stop the plane’s nosedive. In addition, the cockpit voice box recorder appeared to have been disconnected. An Indonesian investigation was not conclusive.

1994 — Royal Air Maroc Flight 630
All 44 people aboard a turboprop were killed when a captain deliberately flew the plane into a North African mountainside on Aug. 21, 1994, the Los Angeles Times reported. The co-pilot could be heard screaming, "Mayday, mayday, the pilot is..." The captain had disconnected the autopilot, according to Moroccan officials, and newspaper reports suggested he was upset over a love affair. The flight union disputes those findings.

1982 — Japan Air Lines Flight 350
A Japan Air Lines captain crashed his plane into the ocean on its approach to Tokyo on Feb. 9, 1982. His fellow crew members struggled with him in the cockpit, The New York Times reported, but 24 of the 174 people on board died. Days afterward, the airline's president said the pilot had had a "psychosomatic illness" in 1980 but had later been found fit to return to duty.

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