What is known about the Germanwings crash
A summary of what is known so far about the Airbus A320 belonging to German budget airline Germanwings which crashed in the French Alps on Tuesday, killing all 150 people on board.
Flight 4U 9525, took off towards 09:55 am (0855 GMT) from Barcelona in Spain for Duesseldorf in Germany, where it was expected to land at 11:57 am (1057 GMT).
- The victims -
Germanwings says the plane was carrying 150 people - six crew and 144 passengers from around 15 countries.
The airline said there were at least 72 Germans on board. Another 49 of the victims were Spanish, according to Madrid. Victims from Australia, Argentina, Belgium, Britain, Colombia, Denmark, Iran, Israel, Japan, Kazakhstan, Morocco, Mexico, Netherlands and the United States and Venezuela have also been reported by the airline or national governments.
Recovering the bodies will be a lengthy and difficult process due to the difficult terrain
- The aircraft -
The plane was a medium-haul Airbus A320 which entered service in 1991. At first operated by German flag carrier Lufthansa it then passed to its low-cost unit Germanwings.
With its Bordeaux red and yellow colours, Germanwings was created by the company Eurowings in 2002 before joining the Lufthansa fold on January 1, 2009. The flag carrier holds 100 percent of the low-cost airline.
It flies to 130 destinations and had 78 aircraft in late October.
The plane was one of the oldest A320s still in service having carried out 46,700 flights and 58,300 flight hours. According to several experts, at the age of 24, the plane was coming to the end of its life but was not obsolete, if it had been correctly maintained.
Germanwings said the jet underwent a thorough check in the summer of 2013.
The pilot had more than 10 years of experience and more than 6,000 flight hours, according to Lufthansa.
- The flight path -
On Tuesday at 10:30 am (0930 GMT) the flight entered the air navigation zone of Aix-en-Provence in southeastern France, according to French Ecology Minister Segolene Royal.
It was flying at 11,400 metres (37,000 feet) altitude, when at 10:31 am it started to descend without the go-ahead from air traffic controllers and without entering into contact or responding to efforts to contact it.
Air traffic control declared that the plane was in distress at 10:35 am. The crew did not send out a mayday distress signal.
The plane crashed at 1,500 metres (5,000 feet) altitude in a remote and rugged mountain area. It smashed into thousands of pieces with debris scattered over nearly four hectares.
- The probe -
Prosecutors in the southern city of Marseille are in charge of the judicial probe, while investigators in the BEA, the French authority responsible for safety investigations into civil aviation accidents, are in charge of the technical side of investigations, in which the aircraft manufacturer also takes part.
All leads are being followed up, but a terrorist attack is highly unlikely, according to the airline and French ministers.
More than 300 police officers, 100 firemen and 70 soldiers specialised in Alpine mountain searches, were deployed on Wednesday morning at the crash site.
They are involved in different operations from marking out access routes to searches.
Only one mangled black box, or Cockpit Flight Recorder, has been found. The black box which keeps track of conversations and other sounds in the cockpit, has been taken for examination to Paris.
The time needed to decrypt a black box can range from a few hours to several weeks, according to the state it is in after the crash.
The search continued on Wednesday for the second black box which records flight data.
The cautious descent of the plane and its linear direction, guiding it directly to the mountains, point to an unexplainable behaviour by the crew, according to experts.
The crew could have been rendered unconscious by a slow depressurisation in the plane and a lack of oxygen, the pilot could have been suicidal or obliged by a third party to crash into the mountain.
© 2015 AFP