MIAMI — French Rescue Teams have been deployed to start the recovery of debris and bodies from Germanwings (4U) flight 9525, crashed in a remote montainous area of the commune of Prads-Haute-Bléone (Alpes de Haute-Provence, in southern France).
Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve informed yesterday that the Cockpit Voice Recorder (CVR) was retrieved and sent to BEA laboratories in Paris. An initial assessment indicated that even if the unit suffered considerable damages, the memory card was in good order and that the data was successfully retrieved.
Despite early informations from The New York Times, indicating that the Flight Data Recorder (FDR) had been found in a much worse state than the CVR, BEA assures that the FDR is still missing, and that search teams have prioritized the location of the missing unit.
Flight 4U9525 took off yesterday at 09:55 local (08:55 GMT) from Barcelona (BCN) for a 90-minute flight to Düsseldorf (DUS). At 09:27 GMT, the Airbus A320 registered D-AIPX reached its planned cruise level of 38,000ft (11,580m), and shortly thereafter, initiated a constant descent estimated to be in 3,500 feet per minute (fpm). Data from flight tracking website flightradar24 and corroborated by BEA today in a press conference, shows that the aircraft descended during 8 minutes, and was flying at about 6,800ft (2,072m) when radar contact was lost at 10:40 local (09:40 GMT).
BEA also confirmed today that there had been no emergency calls from the airplane, and they also discarded the theory of an inflight breakup as it is inconsistent with the pattern of wreckage found.
Weather conditions were also ruled out as a factor, as previously indicated by French weather reports. However, the French agency has declined on comment about further theories as they may turn out to be incorrect.
In a press conference offered by Germanwings yesterday, it was informed that there were 144 passengers (including two infants) and six crew members on board. The passenger manifest is yet to be released. However, Thomas Winkelmann, Germanwings CEO, informed to the media that 67 Germans are among the victims. Belgium, Denmark, Spain, United Kingdom, Iran, Kazakhstan, Turkey, Japan, Argentina, Colombia, Mexico, United States and Venezuela nationals were confirmed to be on board as well.
The airline also announced telephone hotlines for those relatives of the passengers involved for care and assistance, by calling on 0800 014 8904 (UK), 0800 11 33 55 77 (Germany), 900 808 890 (Spain) and +1 407 362 0632 (worldwide).
As of today, Germanwings Barcelona – Düsseldorf – Barcelona flight numbers were replaced to 4U9440/9441, until March 28.
Meanwhile, Airbus informed in a statement that the airframe involved in the accident was MSN (Manufacturer Serial Number) 147, originally delivered to Lufthansa (LH) from the production line in 1991, and transferred to Germanwings, its low-cost division, in January 2014. The aircraft had accumulated approximately 58,300 flight hours in some 46,700 flights, and it was powered by CFM 56-5A1 engines.
The BEA (the French Civil Aviation Safety Investigation Authority) informed that seven investigators, accompanied by technical advisors from Airbus and CFM International, were taken to the site of the crash, joining a team of investigators from the BFU (the German Federal Bureau of Aircraft Accident Investigation), and CIAIAC (The Civil Aviation Accident and Incident Investigation Commission from Spain) to start the investigations.
This accident is the first commercial airline crash in France since Air France (AF) flight 4590, a Concorde that crashed after takeoff from Paris-Charles de Gaulle Airport (CDG) on July 25, 2000. The deadliest crash ever in France occurred in 1974, when a Turkish Airlines (TK) McDonnell Douglas DC-10-30 plunged in Ermenonville forest, 25 miles (40 km) outside Paris, killing all 346 aboard.