Germanwings flight 4U9525 from Barcelona to Düsseldorf reached its cruising altitude of 38,000ft at 10.45am, 44 minutes into the flight. Just a minute or two later, it began an unexplained descent.
The descent lasted eight minutes: contact was lost at 10.53am, when the plane was at 6,000ft. The airline does not know why the descent was initiated.
The airline is not sure whether a distress call was issued. The company spokesman said that it had conflicting information about the issue from air traffic controllers. French aviation sources have also given contradictory information on this point.
There were 144 passengers, including two babies, and six crew on board. There are believed to be 67 German nationals on board.
The aircraft was 24 years old, bought by Lufthansa, the parent company of Germanwings, in 1991. It underwent a routine technical check by Lufthansa technicians in Düsseldorf yesterday. It had received a major inspection in the summer of 2013.
The captain had more than 10 years’ flying experience with Lufthansa and Germanwings, and had recorded more than 6,000 hours’ flying time.
A team from Germanwings is on its way to the crash site to help with the investigation.
The spokesman says that although today is a “sad day” for the airline, it can be proud of its standards. It would be premature to ground the fleet, and normal flight operations would continue.
Information about the nationalities of the casualties will only be announced when the airline feels it can do so “without any shred of doubt”.
He adds that information will not be given out until all family members have been informed.
He says the primary focus is to understand the data supplied by the French authorities and French air traffic control. Once this information can be verified, there will be another press conference. The briefing ends.
The Germanwings spokesman said the last routine check of the aircraft was yesterday in Düsseldorf. The captain had 10 years’ experience flying Airbus aircraft for Lufthansa and Germanwings.
We feel a deep feeling of sorrow vis-a-vis our passengers, the families ... our thoughts and prayers go exclusively to the victims. In parallel, we are going to work with the authorities to investigate [and] resolve the cause of the accident as quickly as possible.
Germanwings is giving a press conference. Two babies were on board, the company spokesman says.
The aeroplane left Barcelona at 10.01am and the destination was Düsseldorf. There were 144 passengers on board, two babies and six crew members.
At 10.47am it left its travel and cruising altitude ... and entered into a descent stage. This stage lasted for a total of eight minutes. The contact between the aeroplane and the French radar [air traffic control] broke off at 10.53 ... The plane then crashed.