LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — USC aviation expert Michael Barr is concerned about the flying public's response to news that Tuesday's Germanwings jetliner crash in the French Alps was a willful act.
"Now we've got to remember this is not an accident," Barr told KCAL9's Jasmine Viel on Thursday. "This is a criminal act."
French investigators have called the crash "murder," stating that co-pilot Andreas Lubitz intentionally locked the captain out of the cockpit and flew the plane into the side of a mountain, killing 150 people, including himself.
Barr said that during the fatal descent from 38,000 feet, the cabin would have remained pressurized and passengers might have had the sensation they were landing. They also may have realized something was wrong when they saw the captain banging on the door to get back into the flight deck.
Barr said the Airbus A320 is a very technical aircraft and is one of the workhorse jetliners worldwide.
"This basically is one flying computer," Barr said. "It's not hard to fly, but you have to be technically competent."
French prosecutors say Lubitz was competent, passing all tests, and flying for the company since 2013. But when the plane reached cruising altitude, the captain left the cabin and put Lubitz in command. Lubitz put the plane into a controlled descent and locked the captain out, deploying an override when the captain tried to re-enter the cockpit.
"Very easy," Barr said. "Hit the lock switch; that is all you have to do."
Barr, who teaches airline professionals how to prevent and investigate plane crashes, said in the U.S., two people are required to be in the cockpit at all times, but realizes that might not even help.
"There's not much that a 125 -pound person can do once the pilot puts it into a dive," Barr said.
He said locking the cockpit is still the best safety option, but he worried about the fallout from this crash.
"When I heard about this accident, what really affected me the most is that destroying a trust that we've built between the airline, the pilots, the flight attendants and their passengers," Barr said.
At least four international airlines have announced new rules concerning the number of people required to be in the cockpit, Viel reported.
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