By Mary Grady | March 24, 2015
A German Airbus 320 is down in a mountainous region of southern France, and all 148 on board are believed to be dead, officials announced early Tuesday morning. The airplane was en route from Barcelona to Dusseldorf and was operated by Germanwings, a low-cost subsidiary of Lufthansa. Early reports said a mayday call was made by the crew at 10:47 a.m. local time, and the pilot requested an emergency descent, but authorities later said there had been no communication with the crew. Radar showed a drop in altitude from 38,000 feet to 7,000 feet in about nine minutes. The aircraft disappeared from radar at about 11:20 a.m. Search crews are now on the scene and debris has been found, scattered over an area about a mile square, according to French search and rescue workers.
The airplane had departed Barcelona at 0901GMT, and reached its cruising altitude at 0945, according to the UK Telegraph. Less than a minute later, the airplane began the sharp eight-minute descent. Weather was reportedly calm in the area at the time of the crash.
“The visibility was good, and there were little clouds at low altitudes,” said Frédéric Atger, a spokesman for Meteo France, the national meteorological service. “There were no convected clouds at the time of the crash, and the wind was light. There was no alarming weather. The flying conditions were usual.”
Most of the passengers are believed to be from Spain, Germany, and Turkey. The remote mountain region where the airplane went down, near Barcelonnette, is still covered in snow and avalanches are common. There are few roads in the area. Helicopters are on the scene.
More details on this story will be posted as they develop.