Representatives for Duesseldorf airport and Lufthansa tell journalists the Airbus crash marks a “black day” for German aviation.
DUESSELDORF, GERMANY (MARCH 24, 2015) (REUTERS) – Spokesmen for Duesseldorf airport and for Lufthansa said on Tuesday (March 24) that it was a “black day” German air traffic after an Airbus operated by Lufthansa’s Germanwings budget airline crashed in a remote snowy area of the French Alps on Tuesday and all 150 on board were feared dead.
Germanwings confirmed its flight 4U9525 from Barcelona to Duesseldorf crashed in the French Alps with 144 passengers and six crew members on board.
Officials said the plane issued a distress call at 0947 GMT, about 52 minutes after take-off.
“We would have preferred not to have to meet here today, because it is very black day for German air traffic. About 11:30 (1030 gmt) we received information that the Germanwings plane has disappeared from radar. We immediately undertook all efforts, we called in crisis management in order to deal with the situation,” the head of communications for Duesseldorf airport, Thomas Koetter, told journalists.
“The crisis management is working at full intensity here at the airport. Emergency ministers have been drawn in; we are in close contact to Germanwings, with Lufthansa and other institutions like the foreign ministry and so on. So we are able to handle the situation as best as we can here from Duesseldorf,” he added.
Unofficial website tracking data suggested the aircraft made a sharp descent from its cruising height of 35,000 feet but that it did not appear to have plummeted as quickly as aircraft known to have lost complete control.
However, safety experts warned against reading too much into the third-party data, especially over remote areas, and said black boxes holding the probable answers to the crash were expected to be retrieved quickly.
The accident happened in an alpine region known for skiing, hiking and rafting, but which is hard for rescue services to reach. As helicopters and emergency vehicles assembled, the weather was reported to be closing in.
It was the first crash of a large passenger jet on French soil since the Concorde disaster just outside Paris nearly 15 years ago. The A320 is a workhorse of worldwide aviation fleets. They are the world’s most used passenger jets and have a good though not unblemished safety record.
A spokesman for France’s DGAC aviation authority said the airliner crashed near the town of Barcelonnette about 100 km (65 miles) north of the French Riviera city of Nice.
“The prognosis that we have received from France – and you know that probably better than I do – is not the best. So we take the situation very seriously and handle it accordingly. As I said, the emergency minister is on location, we are in the process of taking care of the relatives here at the airport, and we are in close contact with the necessary institutions in order to get through this day as best as we can,” Koetter said.
French and German accident investigators were heading for the crash site in Meolans-Revel, a remote and sparsely inhabited commune in the Alps.
Germany’s Angela Merkel will travel on Wednesday (March 25) to the site of a crash, she said on Tuesday, calling it a shock which had plunged Germany, France and Spain into “deep mourning”. German Transport Minister Alexander Dobrindt would also travel to the crash site, a ministry spokesman said.
“It is indeed a hard and black day for air traffic and especially for the passengers to and from Duesseldorf and North Rhine-Westphalia. We can confirm at this moment that the Germanwings flight 9525 has crashed in the French Alps. More details we cannot confirm at this moment. We do have the information about the passengers. There were 144 passengers on board, 6 member of the crew. All other information about the background, about the cause and further details is still being analysed as we speak,” spokesman for Lufthansa in Germany’s North Rhine-Westphalia region said.
Airbus said it was aware of reports of the crash.
“We are aware of the media reports,” Airbus said on Twitter. “All efforts are now going towards assessing the situation. We will provide further information as soon as available.”
Officials at Barcelona airport said the flight took off at 0855 GMT. Families of those on board the plane were gathering at a specially prepared building there.
The crashed A320 is 24 years old — at the upper end of useful life of an aircraft in first-tier airlines — and has been with the parent Lufthansa group since 1991, according to online database airfleets.net