Lufthansa CEO stunned that co-pilot apparently crashed plane

Lufthansa CEO stunned that co-pilot apparently crashed plane

BERLIN (Reuters) - Lufthansa's chief executive said on Thursday he was stunned by the assumption that the co-pilot of a Germanwings jet deliberately crashed it into a mountain in the Alps.

A French prosecutor said 28-year-old German co-pilot Andreas Lubitz appeared to have brought down the Airbus A320 with the intent to destroy it.

"We are shaken. This is our worst nightmare, that such a tragedy could happen in our group," CEO Carsten Spohr told reporters in Cologne.

The company carefully vetted its crews and did not only test them on technical abilities but also made psychological checks.

He said the co-pilot had taken an 11-month break, during which he worked as a flight attendant but that he passed all the relevant checks upon restarting. Spohr said the break was not unusual and declined to give details of the reasons behind the pause in training.

"No matter your safety regulations, no matter how high you set the bar, and we have incredibly high standards, there is no way to rule out such an event," Spohr said. "This is an awful one-off event."

He said that even though Lufthansa had every confidence in its pilots and their training, it would be reviewing vetting and training procedures in light of the crash.

When asked if Lufthansa and Germanwings would describe the crash as a suicide, Spohr replied: "I'm not a lawyer, but I would say if that a person takes 149 other people with him to their deaths, then we need a word other than suicide."

(Reporting by Victoria Bryan; Editing by Caroline Copley and Angus MacSwan)