The arrivals board at Dusseldorf airport. Photo: AFP
An airbus A320 carrying 150 people crashed in the southern French Alps on Tuesday morning, in what has been described as one of the worst plane disasters in the country. Here’s what we know so far about the crash.
The site of the crash
The plane crashed near the village of Barcelonnette in south-eastern France, in the region of Alpes-de-Haute-Provence, which is at an altitude of 2000m.
The actual crash site is believed to be around 2,700m altitude with the debris spread over an area of 2km squared.
Quoted in Le Parisien, Alain Vidalies, French secretary of state for transport said: “It is an area that is snow-capped, inaccessible by vehicles, but which could be flown over by helicopters.”
He added that the weather conditions “were not particularly bad”.
-->(The scene of the crash. Photo: Google Maps)
The flight, number GWI9525, took off at 10.01am from Barcelona and was due to land in Düsseldorf at 11.49am.
The plane belonged to Germanwings, an affiliate of German airline Lufthansa, which has had no fatal accidents in the past. The single-aisle A320 typically seats 150 to 180 people.
The plane was last given a major check-up in September 2013. It's pilot had around 6,000 hours of flying time and ten years experience.
How many people were on board?
The plane was carrying 150 people, including 144 passengers, two pilots and four stewards. Among the victims were 45 Spanish people, according to Spanish media.
There were also believed to have been 67 Germans on board.
Local German newspaper Ruhr Nachrichten is reporting that there were 16 students and two teachers from the Joseph-König Gymnasium in Haltern am See, a town roughly 80km from Dusseldorf.
According to French transport minister Vidalies there are “no survivors”. More details of those on board will be released once all the families have been consulted.
-->(Emergency crews on the scene. Photo: AFP)
When did the crash happen?
The exact timing of the crash is as yet unclear.
However Vidalies confirmed that a distress signal was registered at 10:47am. “The distress signal showed that the plane was at 5,000 feet in an abnormal situation,” he said.
The crew of the Germanwings flight that crashed in the French Alps on Tuesday did not send a distress signal, civil aviation authorities told AFP.
"The crew did not send a Mayday. It was air traffic control that decided to declare the plane was in distress because there was no contact with the crew of the plane," the source said.
According to reports the airplane plunged for around eight minutes before impact.
Why did it crash?
It’s too early to say exactly what happened.
“We cannot say anything yet quickly about the causes of the accident. It will take months, if not years to be able to say definitively,” said a spokesperson from the German plane accident investigation bureau Germout Freitag.
The bureau will send three investigators to France in the afternoon, according to Le Parisien.