A Germanwings Airbus A320 has crashed in the Alps of southern France on its way from Barcelona to Düsseldorf. All 150 people onboard are presumed dead.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. The French President Says There Are Likely ‘No Survivors’
Germanwings Flight 4U9525 was an Airbus A320 traveling from Barcelona, Spain, to Düsseldorf, Germany, with 150 people onboard, including crew. French President François Hollande has stated that there are likely no survivors. Germanwings is a budget airline owned by Lufthansa.
The flight took off from Barcelona at 10:01 a.m. local time and was scheduled to arrive in Düsseldorf at 11:49 a.m. local time. German aircraft control states that the plane went down at 10:37 a.m. local time.
It was flying between 34-38,000 feet over the French Alps when the pilot sent out a distress signal.
2. It Crashed Between 2 Mountain Peaks in a Crevasse
French officials place the location of the crash near the French mountain village of Digne-les-Bains. Digne-les-Bains is a remote village that is hard to access, 30 miles north of Nice.
MSNBC reports that debris has been discovered 50 miles away in Barcelonnette, France, which is not to be confused with Barcelona, Spain, which is much further away and the origin of the aircraft. The plane crashed between two mountain peaks in a crevasse.
3. Something Catastrophic Happened
The Airbus A320 was traveling at high altitudes of 34-38,000 feet when air traffic control sent out the distress signal “7700,” which is equivalent to a Mayday call. The pilot did not send out the distress signal, however.
Airline controls report that they lost the plane’s signal at 6,800 feet. Because of its original altitude when the distress signal was sent out, birds and similar airplane obstructions can be ruled out. Weather was also ruled out.
Something catastrophic must have happened to incapacitate the pilot from landing safely, as there were numerous other airports to land at nearby: Nice, Marseille, alongside with smaller ski resort airports that are common in the area. Oddly, its descent was also in line with what would be typical for an airport approach.
The owner of a French Alpine camping ground says he heard a series of loud noises in the air before a Germanwings passenger plane carrying 150 people crashed to the ground.
Pierre Polizzi told The Associated Press the noise began at 11:30 a.m.
“There are often fighter jets flying over, so I thought it sounded just like that. I looked outside but I couldn’t see any fighter planes.”
“The noise I heard was long – like 8 seconds – as if the plane was going more slowly than a military plane speed. There was another long noise about 30 seconds later.”
4. There Were Several Schoolchildren Onboard
Because it’s a German airline traveling from a popular German vacation spot back to Germany, it’s believed that a majority of the passengers onboard were Germans. Spain’s deputy minister has stated that it’s believed at least 45 of the passengers on board are Spanish. MSNBC also reports that there were some Turks onboard.
However, identities are still unknown.
The Local, a German newspaper, is reporting that there were schoolchildren on board. They write:
Some 15 of the victims were German students returning home after a student exchange trip with Catalonia’s Giola Institute, a secondary school in Linars del Vallès, a staff member confirmed to The Local.
5. Experts Don’t Believe It’s Terrorism Related
Airbus planes are flown every day, every minute and are known to be highly technological. Airbus planes have lots of computers onboard that keep the pilot in tight parameters that are near impossible to deviate from.
However, as the France 24 interview above with scientific journalist Geoffrey Wise discusses, there seems to be a striking resemblance between the crash of flight 9525 and another Lufthansa flight incident that took place in November 2014, which dealt with a frozen airplane part and a similar descent trajectory.
This particular Airbus flying in Flight 4U9525 was an older model delivered in November 1990.
According to the French interior minister, one of the blackboxes has been recovered.
UPDATE 3/26/15 @ 7:30 AM: Experts are now beginning to believe something nefarious might have occurred as it seems one of the pilots of the flight had been locked out of the cockpit.