Germanwings pilot intentionally crashes plane, killing 150 people


Year
2015
Month Day
March 24

On March 24, 2015, the co-pilot of a German airliner deliberately flies the plane into the French Alps, killing himself and the other 149 people onboard. When it crashed, Germanwings flight 9525 had been traveling from Barcelona, Spain, to Dusseldorf, Germany.

The plane took off from Barcelona around 10 a.m. local time and reached its cruising altitude of 38,000 feet at 10:27 a.m. Shortly afterward, the captain, 34-year-old Patrick Sondenheimer, requested that the co-pilot, 27-year-old Andreas Lubitz, take over the controls while he left the cockpit, probably to use the bathroom. At 10:31 a.m. the plane began a rapid descent and 10 minutes later crashed in mountainous terrain near the town of Prads-Haute-Bleone in southern France. There were no survivors. Besides the two pilots, the doomed Airbus A320 was carrying four cabin crew members and 144 passengers from 18 different countries, including three Americans.

Following the crash, investigators determined once the captain had stepped out of the cockpit Lubitz locked the door and wouldn’t let him back in. Sondenheimer could be heard on the plane’s black box voice recorder frantically yelling at his co-pilot and trying to break down the cockpit door. (In the aftermath of 9/11, Lufthansa installed fortified cockpit doors; however, when the Germanwings flight crashed the airline wasn’t required to have two crew members in the cockpit at all times, as U.S. carriers do.) Additionally, the flight data recorder showed Lubitz seemed to have rehearsed his suicide mission during an earlier flight that same day, when he repeatedly set the plane’s altitude dial to just 100 feet while the captain was briefly out of the cockpit. (Because Lubitz quickly reset the controls, his actions went unnoticed during the flight.)

Crash investigators also learned Lubitz had a history of severe depression and in the days before the disaster had searched the Internet for ways to commit suicide as well as for information about cockpit-door security. In 2008, Lubitz, a German native who flew gliders as a teen, entered the pilot-training program for Lufthansa, which owns budget-airliner Germanwings. He took time off from the program in 2009 to undergo treatment for psychological problems but later was readmitted and obtained his commercial pilot’s license in 2012. He started working for Germanwings in 2013. Investigators turned up evidence that in the months leading up to the crash Lubitz had visited a series of doctors for an unknown condition. He reportedly had notes declaring him unfit to work but kept this information from Lufthansa.

Instances of pilots using planes to commit suicide are rare. According to The New York Times, a U.S. Federal Aviation Administration study found that out of 2,758 aviation accidents documented by the FAA from 2003 to 2012, only eight were ruled suicides.

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“The Guinness Book of Records” debuts

Year
1955
Month Day
August 27

On August 27, 1955, the first edition of “The Guinness Book of Records” is published in Great Britain; it quickly proves to be a hit. Now known as the “Guinness World Records” book, the annual publication features a wide range of feats related to humans and animals. 

The inspiration for the record book can be traced to November 1951, when Sir Hugh Beaver, managing director of the Guinness Brewery (founded in Dublin in 1759), was on a hunting trip in Ireland. After failing to shoot a golden plover, Beaver and the members of his hunting party debated whether the creature was Europe’s fastest game bird but were unable to locate a book with the answer.

Thinking that patrons of Britain’s pubs would enjoy a record book which could be used to settle friendly disagreements, Beaver decided to have one produced. He hired twin brothers Norris and Ross McWhirter, the founders of a London-based agency that provided facts and statistics to newspapers and advertisers. The book was intended to be given away for free in pubs to promote the Guinness brand; however, it turned out to be so popular the company started selling it that fall and it became a best-seller. An American edition debuted in 1956 and was soon followed by editions in a number of other countries. The McWhirters traveled the globe to research and verify records. Ross McWhirter was involved in compiling the book until his death in 1975 at the hands of Irish Republican Army gunmen; his brother Norris continued to serve as the book’s editor until 1986.

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Microsoft founded

Year
1975
Month Day
April 04

On April 4, 1975, at a time when most Americans used typewriters, childhood friends Bill Gates and Paul Allen found Microsoft, a company that makes computer software. Originally based in Albuquerque, New Mexico, Microsoft relocated to Washington State in 1979 and eventually grew into a major multinational technology corporation. In 1987, the year after Microsoft went public, 31-year-old Gates became the world’s youngest billionaire.

Gates and Allen started Microsoft—originally called Micro-Soft, for microprocessors and software—in order to produce software for the Altair 8800, an early personal computer. Allen quit his job as a programmer in Boston and Gates left Harvard University, where he was a student, to focus on their new company, which was based in Albuquerque because the city was home to electronics firm MITS, maker of the Altair 8800. By the end of 1978, Microsoft’s sales topped more than $1 million and in 1979 the business moved its headquarters to Bellevue, Washington, a suburb of Seattle, where Gates and Allen grew up. The company went on to license its MS-DOS operating system to IBM for its first personal computer, which debuted in 1981. Afterward, other computer companies started licensing MS-DOS, which had no graphical interface and required users to type in commands in order to open a program. In 1983, Allen departed Microsoft after being diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma; he was successfully treated for the disease and went on to pursue a variety of other business ventures.

In 1985, Microsoft released a new operating system, Windows, with a graphical user interface that included drop-down menus, scroll bars and other features. The following year, the company moved its headquarters to Redmond, Washington, and went public at $21 a share, raising $61 million. By the late 1980s, Microsoft had become the world’s biggest personal-computer software company, based on sales. In 1995, amidst skyrocketing purchases of personal computers for home and office use, Windows 95 made its debut. It included such innovations as the Start menu (TV commercials for Windows 95 featured the Rolling Stones singing “Start Me Up”) and 7 million copies of the new product were sold in the first five weeks. During the second half of the 1990s, Internet usage took off, and Microsoft introduced its web browser, Internet Explorer, in 1995.

In 1998, the U.S. Department of Justice and 20 state attorneys general charged Microsoft with violating antitrust laws by using its dominance to drive competitors out of business; in 2001, the company reached a settlement with the government that imposed restrictions on its corporate practices. Also in 2001, Microsoft joined the video-game market with the launch of its Xbox console. 

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First person in U.S. diagnosed with Ebola dies

Year
2014
Month Day
October 08

On October 8, 2014, Thomas Eric Duncan, the first person diagnosed with a case of the Ebola Virus Disease in the U.S., dies at age 42 at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas. Shortly before his death, Duncan, who lived in Liberia, had traveled to America from West Africa, which was in the throes of the largest outbreak of the often-fatal disease since its discovery in 1976. After Duncan passed away, two nurses who’d cared for him at the Dallas hospital contracted Ebola; however, both recovered.

On September 15, 2014, Duncan helped transport a sick pregnant woman to a hospital in Monrovia, Liberia. There was no space for the woman at the facility, so she was taken back to the residence where she’d been staying and died not long afterward from Ebola. On September 19, Duncan—whose relatives later said didn’t know he’d been exposed to Ebola—flew to Dallas to visit his fiancé. He arrived in Texas on September 20 and five days later went to the emergency room at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital complaining of abdominal pain and dizziness. Duncan told a nurse he’d recently traveled from Africa but this information wasn’t effectively communicated to the rest of the medical team, who after a matter of hours sent him home with antibiotics.

READ MORE: 5 Hard-Earned Lessons from Pandemics of the Past

On September 28, Duncan, his health deteriorating, returned to the hospital by ambulance. Two days later, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced Duncan (who wasn’t named publicly at the time) was the first person in America diagnosed with Ebola, a disease that spreads through direct contact with body fluids of an infected individual. (Within a year after the West African Ebola outbreak first was reported in March 2014, thousands of people in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea had perished.) Duncan’s diagnosis sparked anxiety and fear about Ebola across the U.S.; at the time, there were no proven treatments or vaccines for the disease. Health officials started tracking the dozens of people who might’ve come into contact with Duncan after he first became ill, and four of his family members were placed under quarantine for three weeks. None of these people developed Ebola.

Duncan died on October 8 and three days later a nurse who’d cared for him at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital tested positive for Ebola. Four days later, a second nurse at the hospital was confirmed to have contracted the disease. Both women were placed in isolation units at separate medical centers, treated with experimental drugs and declared Ebola-free later that month.

As a result of the events in Dallas, federal officials instituted enhanced screening procedures at a group of U.S. airports handling travelers coming into the country from places with Ebola outbreaks. Officials also issued new guidelines for protective gear worn by health care workers treating patients infected with the virus. A total of two people died in the U.S. during the 2014 outbreak. 

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