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Patrick Sondheimer, Germanwings Pilot Locked Out Of Cockpit, Remembered As Brave, Conscientious

04/02/2015 12:35 EDT | Updated 06/02/2015 05:59 EDT
The world now knows much about the troubled personal life of Germanwings co-pilot Andreas Lubitz, the 27 year old said to have deliberately crashed an Airbus A320 passenger plane into an alpine mountainside.

But what of the plane's other pilot — the captain of flight 9525?

While the co-pilot's face can be found plastered on newsstands, the captain remains largely faceless. Not even a photo has been released to the public. 

His family has asked for privacy, and he has barely registered a footnote in most of the mainstream news coverage.

Relatives have identified the plane's pilot as Patrick Sondheimer, 34, a married father of a six-year-old daughter and a three-year-old son.

He had recently switched from long-haul to short-haul flights, like the one he flew on March 24, to spend more time with his family. 

A memorial service was held in his honour on March 29 near the family home in Dusseldorf. His grandmother, Marianne, said it was Sondheimer's boyhood dream to become a pilot. 

"My grandson is dead and all because of an idiot who did this to his whole flight and killed so many people," she told British newspaper the Mirror. 

The pastor who led the memorial service, Elke Bonn, remembered Sondheimer as someone who was always ready to help others. He "radiated happiness," Bonn said. 

Sondheimer's embattled employer, Germanwings parent company Lufthansa, said he had flown more than 6,000 hours in 10 years on the job. His flying record was spotless. 

A partial transcript from an audio recording of his final flight reveals Sondheimer as friendly, polite and, in his last moments, brave.

The captain can be heard pleading with his co-pilot to unlock the cockpit: "For God's sake, open the door." 

Sondheimer spent more than five minutes desperately trying to break through the reinforced cockpit door, attacking it with an axe or a crowbar, the transcript reveals.

"Open the goddamn door!" he cried. But there was no response. At 10:40 a.m. local time, the tape recording abruptly ended, along with all 150 lives onboard. 

Those few known details from Sondheimer's life and death have sparked a growing campaign on social media. Tens of thousands of messages have been posted in his memory. 

"Captain Patrick Sondheimer," tweeted @Jesixander. "That is the name we should all #remember."

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