Andreas Lubitz Sought Treatment for Vision Problems Before Germanwings Crash, Authorities Say

Rescue workers attended a memorial service in Le Vernet, France, on Saturday for the people killed in the Germanwings crash on Tuesday. Credit Jean-Paul Pelissier/Reuters

DÜSSELDORF, Germany — Andreas Lubitz, who was flying the Germanwings jetliner that slammed into a mountain in the French Alps on Tuesday, sought treatment for vision problems that may have jeopardized his ability to continue working as a pilot, two officials with knowledge of the investigation said Saturday.

The revelation of the possible trouble with his eyes added a new element to the emerging portrait of the 27-year-old German pilot, who the authorities say was also being treated for psychological issues and had hidden aspects of his medical condition from his employer.

It is not clear how severe his eye problems were or how they might have been related to his psychological condition. One person with knowledge of the investigation said the authorities had not ruled out the possibility that the vision problem could have been psychosomatic.

Mr. Lubitz, the co-pilot, was alone in the cockpit of the Airbus A320 jetliner on the flight from Barcelona to Düsseldorf, ignoring demands from the captain to be let back in, when the plane crashed. The French prosecutor in the case, drawing from cockpit voice recordings and other data about the flight, has said that Mr. Lubitz deliberately guided the plane, with another 149 people on board, into the mountains.

Since then investigators in Germany and France, airline regulators, political leaders and the families of the victims have sought answers about what might have led Mr. Lubitz to do what he did.

Friends and acquaintances have repeatedly said how important flying was to Mr. Lubitz, who began piloting gliders at a flying club near his hometown at the age of 14.

Police searching Mr. Lubitz’s apartment here in Düsseldorf on Thursday found doctors’ notes that said he was too ill to work, including on the day of the crash. One had been torn up and thrown in the wastebasket, supporting investigators’s suspicion that he was hiding his medical problems from the airline.

It appears that, as was the case with his psychiatric problems, Mr. Lubitz did not tell the airline about his vision concerns.

“When I saw him as an adult compared to a youth, I thought, ‘He really amounted to something,’ ” Mr. Radke said Saturday under a sunny sky as wind swept the grassy landing strip used by the glider club. “He was confident, helpful. I thought, ‘Man, he’s someone who made it.’ ”

Mr. Radke, who said the club had received emailed death threats for helping Mr. Lubitz begin his flying career, picked up no sign last year that anything with Mr. Lubitz was amiss.

“I’m not a doctor,” Mr. Radke said. “For me he was normal.”

Time and again, the same adjectives pop up when people remember Mr. Lubitz. He was courteous and friendly, but reserved and not someone who drew attention to himself — thoroughly normal. The one thing that set him apart was his love of flying.

Detlef Adolf, manager of a Burger King adjacent to a Montabaur industrial park, described Mr. Lubitz as a reliable and punctual employee during the time, around 2007 or 2008, he worked part time as a cook at the restaurant.

Mr. Lubitz was still in high school when he worked at Burger King. Mr. Adolf remembered how overjoyed Mr. Lubitz was when, having graduated from high school, he was accepted into pilot training.

“He was happy — happy that he passed,” Mr. Adolf said.

The next time that Mr. Adolf saw Mr. Lubitz was when he came into the restaurant for a meal sometime later. “He told me he broke off his training but he didn’t say why,” Mr. Adolf said. Mr. Adolf did not pry. The parent company of Germanwings, Lufthansa, said this week that Mr. Lubitz had interrupted his pilot training at one point for several months for reasons it did not disclose.

Referring to the gap in Mr. Lubitz’s training and a designation on his flying license that indicated he was under regular medical care, Mr. Radke said: “If that’s true, as a responsible employer you should ask questions. That’s my personal opinion.”

“If you’re driving a car and the oil light goes on, do you keep driving? No,” Mr. Radke said. “If no action was taken, there’s a flaw in the system.”

The Düsseldorf University Hospital said in a statement on Friday that Mr. Lubitz had been evaluated at its clinic in February and as recently as March 10. Reached by phone on Saturday, a spokeswoman would not comment on whether he had sought treatment for vision problems, citing patient privacy laws. The hospital has an eye clinic. On Friday the hospital denied speculation that Mr. Lubitz had sought treatment for depression there.

Although he was flying for a commercial airline, Mr. Lubitz was a co-pilot and not working the kind of long-haul routes he aspired to.

When Klaus Radke, president of the club where Mr. Lubitz learned to fly gliders, the Luftsportclub Westerwald, first met Andreas Lubitz, he was a typical 14-year-old in the throes of puberty who was unusual only in his wide-eyed fascination with flying, Mr. Radke said. Last fall, when Mr. Lubitz came back to the club to put in some flight hours he needed to keep his glider’s license current, Mr. Radke was impressed at the fit, by all appearances self-assured and professional pilot that Mr. Lubitz had become.

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  • Waffle

    Well, if you have vision problems, you’re going to be at least somewhat depressed. Just ask me. But then, I don’t have my pilots license.

    • Censored_often

      Laser surgery doesn’t work for pilots as it does for normal people?

      • Waffle

        Laser surgery is used for a limited number of problems affecting the eyes. As I understand it (and I could be wrong), laser surgery is used to correct long- or shortsightedness. Not all vision problems can be helped with laser surgery.

        • Censored_often

          Fair enough. Of course (or not), I assume he was just a severely mentally ill dude if not a psychopath, but who am I to judge?

          • Waffle

            Did you see yesterday’s Emotional-Fragility epidemic thread? He would fit right into the age range of coddled Boomers children, experiencing great difficulty in coping with life’s realities, If someone like that was faced with a career-destroying vision problem, one way of dealing with it . . well, we know what did about it. If that’s being mentally ill, there are probably a lot of Andreas out there.

  • cmh

    sounds like a large red herring to me…..anything to spin away from the truth that he was a homicidal lunatic that was allowed to proceed instead of being institutionalized for the public’s safety.

    • Censored_often

      I’m still waiting to learn about his circle of friends and their political leanings and/or religious affiliation, etc. Lots more details will emerge, no?

    • Surele Surele

      ditto

  • Vision problems are a large issue for commercial pilots.

    But, I want to know what he did during his six months off during commercial flight training. And if he has any contact with Islamic theology. Even if it was only with a Muslim girl friend.

  • Gaylord Ponce

    According to FOX news, his squeeze dumped him the day before he kamakazied.

  • Clink9

    Vision problems. He couldn’t see himself acting human anymore.

  • DMB

    Let’s see here vision problems, climate change, lack of after school programs, poverty and a whole host of complete utter nonsense is being used as an excuse of an act of mass murder by evil psychopath.

  • bverwey

    Seems to me a glimpse over on the mooselimb conversion angle. Are we being fed a sanitized viewpoint to be more PC in Merkel’s union?

  • Surele Surele

    With such a severe disability… vision problems, there is no wonder he locked the door to the cockpit. Everybody would. No?

  • TW

    This guy seems to have been faced with a serious health problem of some kind that threatened to terminate his career as a pilot but it does not explain why he would conclude that the solution was to kill 150 innocent people along with himself. There are rumors (see Pamela Gellar) that this guy was a recent Muslim convert, the truth will out in time.