- A Germanwings Airbus A320 has crashed in French Alps near Digne, with 150 people on board
- Flight 4U 9525 was travelling between Barcelona and Duesseldorf
- French President Francois Hollande said he believed none of those on board had survived
- Cologne-based Germanwings says it was aware of reports
- The low-cost airline owned by giant German carrier Lufthansa
DEVELOPING: France's president said Tuesday that no one was likely to have survived the crash of a passenger plane with 148 people on board that went down in the French Alps.
The Airbus 320 operated by Germanwings had crashed while flying to Dusseldorf, Germany from Barcelona, Spain with 142 passengers and six crew members on board. Germanwings is the budget airline run by Lufthansa and primarily used by Europeans for booking weekend getaways or business trips.
AFP reported that the plane had issued a distress call at 10:47 a.m. local time (5:47 a.m. ET), 46 minutes after takeoff. Eric Heraud, a spokesman for France's civil aviation authority, told The New York Times that the pilots declared an emergency during a rapid descent from from a cruising altitude of 38,000 feet to around 5,000 feet, while flying over the town of Barcelonnette in the Alpes de Haute Provence region.
"It's a tragedy on our soil," said French President Francois Hollande, who added that he would be speaking shortly with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, as it was probable that most of the victims were German. Hollande added that the area of the crash was remote and it was not clear whether anyone on the ground had been hurt.
"We do not yet know what has happened to flight 4U 9525." Lufthansa chief executive Carsten Spohr told Sky News. "My deepest sympathy goes to the families and friends of our passengers and crew on 4U 9525. If our fears are confirmed, this is a dark day for Lufthansa. We hope to find survivors."
France's Interior Ministry told the Associated Press that debris from the plane had been spotted at an altitude of 2,000 meters, or just above 6,500 feet. Eric Ciotti, the head of the regional council, said search-and-rescue teams were headed to the crash site at Meolans-Revels, approximately 90 minutes north of the port city of Marseille.
“It’s puzzling to me that direction of flight seems to be on course toward the mountains, and not diverted,” Lt. Gen. Tom McInerney told Fox News.
The reported 6,500-foot altitude was “too low” to successfully navigate the mountainous region, McInerney, a retired Air Force pilot, said on “Fox & Friends.”
“If it disappeared [from radar], it means it got into the mountains.”
“There’s probably quite a bit of [cockpit] dialogue that we’re not getting yet.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.