German airliner fell 4,000 feet per minute before crashing in Alps

by Will Hall |

(REUTERS/Jean-Paul Pelissier)French Police and Gendarmerie Alpine rescue units gather on a field as they prepare to reach the crash site of an Airbus A320, near Seyne-les-Alpes, in the French Alps, March 24, 2015. An Airbus plane operated by Lufthansa's Germanwings budget airline, en route from Barcelona to Duesseldorf, crashed in a remote snowy area of the French Alps on Tuesday killing all 150 on board including 16 schoolchildren.

DIGNE, France (Christian Examiner) – Germanwings Flight 9525 from Barcelona, Spain, to Duesseldorf, Germany, crashed in a remote area of the French Alps, with the airline reporting 144 passengers and six crew members aboard.

(CNN/screen capture)The red line shows a fairly steady aircraft speed throughout the flight. However, the blue line shows a rapid rate of descent during the last 8 minutes of flight. The steady speed and the stable, but high, drop in altitude implies controlled flight, which puzzles investigators.

Initial reports indicate the plane dropped from an altitude of about 38,000 feet to an elevation of slightly more than 6,000 feet in the mountains in a period of about 8 minutes—a descent rate of 4,000 feet per minute, with no sign of abatement before the aircraft hit the earth.

Germanwings Chief Executive Thomas Winkelmann said at a news conference that 67 Germans were among the dead, and that two babies were aboard. Germanwings is the low-cost subsidiary of Germany's Lufthansa Airline.

Spain's deputy prime minister said 45 passengers had Spanish names, Reuters is reporting.

Although the pilots made an emergency broadcast, they did not identify the nature of the emergency, according to various media reports.

Lufthansa's CEO Carsten Spohr tweeted that officials "do not yet know what has happened" and extended his "deepest sympathy to the families and crew."

"If our fears are confirmed, he said, "this is a dark day for Lufthansa. We hope to find survivors."