11:03 GMT – WELCOME TO AFP’S LIVE REPORT on the crash of an Airbus A320 in the French Alps with 148 people on board. A civil aviation official said there had been “a loss of radar of Germanwings flight GWI18G,” which is thought to have been carrying 142 passengers, two pilots and four stewards.
11:18 GMT – Barcelona origin – The plane was travelling from the Spanish coastal city of Barcelona to the German city of Duesseldorf when it went down in the Barcelonnette area, in southeastern France. The plane issued a distress call at 10:47 am (0947 GMT), sources said.
11:22 GMT – Low-cost – The plane belonged to Germanwings, a low-cost affiliate of German airline Lufthansa. The single-aisle A320 typically seats 150 to 180 people. Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve, who says debris from the plane has already been found, is heading to the scene.
11:53 GMT – 5,000 feet – Alain Vidalies, minister of state for transport, said: “A distress call was registered at 10:47. The distress signal showed the plane was at 5,000 feet in an abnormal situation.”
11:56 GMT – Lufthansa shares down – In late morning deals, Lufthansa’s share price dived 4.61 percent to 13.15 euros in Frankfurt, topping the fallers board on the German stock market. “Tragically, market movement cannot always been driven by pure stats, and the news that a Germanwings plane has crashed in the south of France caused a fall in Lufthansa — the owner of Germanwings — alongside Airbus, the plane’s manufacturer, as the cause of the disaster remains unclear,” Spreadex analyst Connor Campbell told AFP.
11:56 GMT – Enormous noise – A police helicopter said the crash happened in a mountainous area called Les Trois Eveches, rising to 1,400 metres and very difficult to access. A witness who was skiing in the area described having “heard an enormous noise”, a French television channel reported.
12:51 GMT – Witness 1 – Mirages flew by – Meolans Revel local councillor Thierry Brown tells AFP’s Isabelle Malsang: “The only thing we noticed was three Mirage fighter planes flying over, at least three times, around the supposed time of the crash. “We are used to seeing one a day on average but never so many at the same time.”
NOTE: The Dassault Mirage III is a family of single-seat, single-engine, fighter aircraft produced by Dassault Aviation for the French Air Force and widely exported. Prominent operators included Australia, Argentina, South Africa and Israel
Witness 2 – It was, according to one Air France pilot, a fabulous day for flying. Gerard Monchablon, in the cockpit of his plane with the French carrier, was flying high above the clouds over the southern French Alps yesterday morning, and conditions were perfect. “It was a beautiful day, very sunny. The mountains are very steep, and there are no people living there.” But suddenly, across his radio, came the terrible news that a plane nearby had crashed. “It was the only aircraft near me,” he told BFMTV. “Then two Mirages [French fighter jets] arrived.”
Witness 3 – Down in the valley below, it was a pleasant spring day in the southern Alpine hamlet of Beaujeu, and a local man called Bernard was outside his home, near Digne Les Bains. And then he heard an unusual sound. “It was strange,” he told local newspaper Le Dauphine Libere. “I’m used to planes going overhead, but not like that. “It was low; it was really low. Normally if it’s low it’s a military plane. I couldn’t see because of clouds, but from the noise I could tell it wasn’t a military plane. I would have said it was trying to keep its altitude. I can’t say for certain whether it clipped the peak of the mountain because you don’t hear. The hills muffle the sound,” said Bernard.
Witness 4 – Emile Gall, also below the clouds in the village of Seyne, did not see the plane either. “But I heard it. I heard it flying really low.” She, too, thought that it was a military plane. “I said to myself: ‘They are so annoying, these planes which fly through the valley.’ Then I heard a funny noise, like an engine misfiring. Then I heard a big muffled sound. But it wasn’t that of a plane going through the sound barrier.”
Witness 5 – Evelyne Bayle, who lives in Vernet, saw and heard the crash. There was, she said, “a real racket from the engine”. But the noise was not normal. “It was really loud. A bit like the noise when you set off an avalanche or a rock slide. “It was very noisy. After, there was an impact and an explosion. Maybe it was the kerosene which blew up.”
13:13 GMT – Radio links – Colonel Jean-Pascal Breton, head of French air force information service SIRPA Air, explains the overflights by Mirage military planes, saying they went to the area of the crash to provide radio links between the various rescue services. “At 1,700 metres, the radio doesn’t work as the mountains block signals. To coordinate the operation you need radio links. That is what the fighter aircraft are doing. So the helicopters talk via the airborne plane,” Breton says. Other resources will be brought in this afternoon, possibly including an AWACS (surveillance) plane, he adds.
13:13 GMT – Victims – French President Francois Hollande says the 150 people killed included Germans, Spaniards and “probably” Turks. He says he cannot say with “total certainty” that no French nationals were aboard the Germanwings flight.
13:14 GMT – Summary – – All 150 people on board are dead in the worst plane disaster in mainland France in four decades
13:42 GMT – 1st Germanwings loss – Germanwings says none of its aircraft has ever been involved in a crash prior to the loss of an Airbus A320 in the French Alps. “We’ve never had a total loss of aircraft in the company’s history until now,” a company spokeswoman told AFP.
14:04 GMT – Worst crashes – Records show the crash of a German budget airliner in the French Alps is the worst air disaster in mainland France in 40 years and one of Europe’s worst in the past 10 years. http://u.afp.com/9cp
14:16 GMT – Plane 24 years old – Airbus says the aircraft used on flight 4U 9525 was delivered to Lufthansa from the production line in 1991. It had accumulated approximately 58,300 flight hours in some 46,700 flights. It was powered by CFM 56-5A1 engines. At the end of February 2015 nearly 6,200 A320 Family aircraft were in operation worldwide, Airbus says. The fleet has accumulated more than 150 million flight hours in over 85 million flights.
14:18 GMT – GERMANWINGS SAYS JET NOSEDIVED FOR EIGHT MINUTES
14:48 (Updated 14:55) – LeFigaro.fr with AFP: Crew of Germanwings airline, whose plane crashed this morning in the French Alps, has not issued a distress call, said the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA). “L The crew did not issue mayday. This is the air traffic control has decided to declare the aircraft in distress because he had no contact with the crew and the plane, “she explained .
14:54 GMT – Nosedive – The Airbus A320 jet that crashed in the French Alps had only just reached a cruising altitude of 38,000 feet before it descended rapidly for eight minutes, Germanwings says. The pilot of flight 4U 9525 had more than 10 years’ experience and 6,000 flying hours under his belt, Germanwings executive Thomas Winkelmann tells a news conference. The jet had undergone a thorough check in the summer of 2013.
15:20 GMT – Losses narrowed – Germanwings carrier has about 2,000 employees and it carried around 16 million passengers in the year to July 2014. The low-cost carrier succeeded in narrowing its losses in 2014, despite financial fallout from a pilots’ strike, and hopes to break even for the first time in 2015.