French investigators say data from the second “black box” recorder recovered after the Germanwings plane crash suggests the co-pilot increased the aircraft’s speed as it descended.
The information confirms earlier findings that last week’s downing of the Airbus into an Alpine mountainside was a deliberate act.
The Bureau d’enquêtes et d’analyses (BEA) investigation agency said in a statement that an initial reading of the data indicated the plane was programmed to go down to an altitude of 100 feet.
Several times, the investigators say, the pilot then modified the automatic pilot’s settings to make the aircraft go faster.
The flight data recorder contains a detailed readout of hundreds of parameters, including any commands made from the co-pilot’s seat on the flight from Barcelona to Dusseldorf.
The box was discovered on Thursday by a female rescue officer, in an area of the mountain that had been repeatedly searched.
“I’d found a pile of clothes, we rummaged through a bit, scratched at it, moved bits and pieces downhill – and that was when I discovered a box. It was the same colour as the black gravel you find everywhere on the site,” Alice Coldefy, from the Gendarmerie High Mountain Rescue Squad, told reporters.
Investigators say they are still working to establish facts leading up to the crash, which killed 150 people.
Data from the voice recorder, recovered on the day of the crash, had already suggested the co-pilot – 27-year-old Andreas Lubitz – had locked the captain out of the cockpit and set the plane on course to crash.
Meanwhile, German prosecutors have said a computer from Lubitz’s home shows internet searches for methods of committing suicide were made in the days leading up to the fateful flight.