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French authorities have said 150 people have died after Germanwings flight 4U9525 from Barcelona to Düsseldorf crashed in the French Alps
There were 144 passengers, including two babies and 16 German schoolchildren, and six crew on board. It is believed that there were 67 Germans and 45 Spanish on board.
An unexplained descent lasting eight minutes began about 45 minutes into the flight. The plane dropped from its cruising altitude of 38,000ft to 6,000ft. Contact was lost at 10.53am, when the plane was at 6,000ft.
The French aviation regulator has said no distress call was issued although there has been some confusion with others saying it was.
The first image from the crash site shows countless pieces of debris strewn over a wide area. A regional official told CNN the largest piece was the size of a small car.
The location of the crash makes access difficult and conditions are expected to deteriorate over the next 12 hours as a storm system moves into the region, producing rain and high-elevation snow.
The plane’s black box has been found, the French interior minister, Bernard Cazeneuve, said. He said it would help the investigation proceed more quickly.
The Guardian’s transport correspondent, Gwyn Topham, has been talking to experts about what might have caused the crash.
The airline said it could not give any reason why the plane crashed and added that it was too early to speculate on possible causes. The unverified flight data from plane tracking websites however appeared to rule out a large-scale explosion, with the plane apparently flying on relatively intact, or a midair stall, which would cause a much faster descent. Experts said planes would also be able to glide for longer in the case of total engine failure.
David Gleave, an air accident investigator and aviation expert at Loughborough University, said that based on the unverified data from plane tracking websites, “The descent appears to be consistent about 3000 ft a minute - not fast enough to be an explosive decompression, but it’s too fast if you were gliding. It appears to be a controlled descent.”
Tony Cable, who was the senior investigator into the Concorde crash, the last major air disaster on French soil in 2000, said that if there was no distress call made by pilots during the descent, likely starting points for investigation would be either a loss of control or pilot confusion, or a combination of both. One cause might be what investigators term a CFIT or controlled flight into terrain, where loss of instruments or irregular readings can make pilots lose their bearings and only become aware of danger too late if there is no visual reference - possible in the case of descending through thick cloud.
originally posted by: Zaphod58
From the crash site:
What we know so far.
The airframe had 58,300 hours on it, and is the 28th loss of an A320. The last fatal accident involving Lufthansa was a runway overrun in 1993 where two people died.
The spokeswoman says that Lufthansa is investigating whether it can bring relatives to the crash site. The logistics of such an operation would be difficult – it has been hard even to get investigators to the scene this afternoon. If it can be done, it will be done, the spokeswoman says.
She is asked about why the plane left late from Barcelona, but is unable to say why there was a delay of nearly 30 minutes.
The spokeswoman is unable to shed any light on the conflicting information of whether a mayday call was made by the crew, or whether any other emergency signal was launched.
The last maintenance check of the plane was yesterday in Dusseldorf, she says.