Germanwings says plane crashed after eight-minute descent

DUESSELDORF, Germany (REUTERS, BLOOMBERG) - Germanwings said its Airbus A320 aircraft that crashed in the French Alps on Tuesday started descending one minute after reaching its cruising height and continued losing altitude for eight minutes.

"The aircraft's contact with French radar, French air traffic controllers ended at 10.53 am at an altitude of about 6,000 feet. The plane then crashed," Lufthansa unit Germanwings' managing director Thomas Winkelmann told journalists at a news conference. 

Among the 144 passengers on the plane travelling from Barcelona, Spain to the western German city of Duesseldorf were two babies, executive Mr Winkelmann told reporters.

Six crew members were on board, two in the cockpit and four in the cabin, he added. Sixty-seven passengers were German, he said.

Mr Winkelmann also said that routine maintenance of the aircraft was performed by Lufthansa Technik on Monday.

No one survived in the crash and it is likely to take days to recover the bodies of those on board due to difficult terrain, French police at the crash site said.

"It is going to take days to recover the victims, then the debris,” senior police officer Jean-Paul Bloy told Reuters.

The police added that there were currently no theories on the cause of the crash. 

Germanwings Flight 4U9525, a single-aisle Airbus A320, disappeared from radar on a flight from the Spanish coastal city of Barcelona with 144 passengers and six crew, Lufthansa said in a statement.

French authorities said all 150 people probably died. They also said the jet did not issue a distress call but controllers issued a distress phase.

Germanwings is taking over most Lufthansa flights serving German airports outside the main hubs of Frankfurt and Munich as its parent takes steps to rein in costs.

Lufthansa, Europe’s second-biggest carrier, shifted control of operations at Dusseldorf, the crashed plane’s intended destination, to Germanwings a year ago.  

(This story is developing)