Expert on Germanwings Crash: 'This One Is Weird'

2 Americans believed to have been on board
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 24, 2015 11:13 PM CDT
Updated Mar 25, 2015 7:22 AM CDT
Germanwings Crash Stumps Experts
A rescue helicopter flies over mountains near Seyne-les-Alpes, France, today.   (AP Photo/Christophe Ena)

"German-operated A320s do not crash in the cruise. Not these days. This one is weird," tweeted the safety editor of Flightglobal after the crash of Germanwings Flight 9525, and with the investigation of the crash that killed 150 still in the very early stages, other experts seem equally puzzled. One black box has been recovered from the pulverized wreckage in the French Alps. France's interior minister says this was the cockpit voice recorder, which is damaged but still viable, and investigators will put it back together to "get to the bottom of this tragedy," reports Reuters. The search resumed today for the flight data recorder, which may hold information explaining the flight's sudden eight-minute descent just after it reached its 38,000-feet cruising altitude. More:

  • Germanwings CEO Thomas Winkelmann says two Americans were on board the flight, per the AP; the State Department has yet to confirm, and no other info was given.
  • The length of the descent appears to rule out an explosion or a sudden midair stall, experts say. "While investigators still need to verify the data are correct, eight minutes is definitely longer compared with the experience we have had in past cases," a former French government crash investigator tells the New York Times.
  • The debris is scattered over a relatively small area, which the interior minister says is another sign that the plane did not explode in the air, Reuters reports.

  • Though earlier reports said otherwise, France's aviation authority has confirmed that the pilots sent no distress call and did not request to start a descent. A senior investigator of the 2000 Concorde crash in France tells the Guardian that could be a sign that the crash was caused by pilot confusion or a loss of control.
  • The crash could have been caused by technical errors that Airbus jets have suffered in the past, according to the AP, which notes that the 2009 crash of Air France Flight 447 began with false air-speed indications from the jet's instruments, and that the European Aviation Safety Agency issued a warning in November after a Lufthansa A321 plunged 4,000 feet in a minute when the autopilot unexpectedly lowered its nose.
  • The AP also suggests pilot error could have been the cause, either from an accidental dive or stall they couldn't recover from or, in the case of decompression, a rush to get down to breathable air at 10,000 feet, which ended in a crash into the mountains.
  • The plane was 24 years old, but the airline says there were no problems with it before takeoff and its age does not seem to have been an issue, Reuters reports. "As long as you have your maintenance schedule in place and follow all the procedures together with the manufacturer, there is absolutely no issue with the age of an airplane," Winkelmann told reporters yesterday.
(Read more Germanwings crash stories.)

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