[Avionics Today 03-25-2015] Details are emerging regarding the investigation on the Germanwings Airbus A320 passenger jet crash in a remote French Alpine region, although at this time nothing has been confirmed for an actual cause of the accident. Experts with the BEA, the French aviation investigative firm, have recovered the aircraft's cockpit voice recorder and are now searching for the Flight Data Recorder, which they believe will provide an explanation for why the accident occurred.
The Germanwings Flight 9525 Cockpit Voice Recorder recovered by the BEA. Photo: BEA.
Germanwings Flight 9525 was operating on a scheduled service from Barcelona, Spain to Dusseldorf, Germany. Airbus has confirmed that the A320 operated by Germanwings — registered under D-AIPX with Manufacturer Serial Number (MSN) 147 — was originally delivered to Lufthansa in 1991. The aircraft had accumulated approximately 58,300 flight hours for 46,700 flights, powered by CFM 56-5A1 engines.
According to a Germanwings press conference, the aircraft reached a cruising altitude of 38,000 feet and then dropped for eight minutes. The A320 lost contact with French radar surveillance around 6,000 feet before crashing.
In a playback of the flight path of the aircraft, the last position of the aircraft picked up by a Flightradar24 ground ADS-B receiver shows that right before the crash, the aircraft was on descent for approximately nine minutes at vertical descent rates from 2,000 to 5,000 feet per minute with a ground speed between 490 kt. and 378 kt. at the time of the last ADS-B signal received.
During a press conference in Spain on Wednesday, March 25, Deutsche Lufthansa CEO Carsten Spohr said the accident was the first time in the airline's 60-year history that at aircraft had crashed while in the cruise phase of flight.
"We still cannot understand what happened there yesterday. Lufthansa has never in its history lost an airplane in cruise flight," said Spohr. "The first flight recorder has been retrieved yesterday. One of the audio streams is readable, we hope over the next few days more information. We hope to find the second flight data recorder as well. I'm very sure that we will be able to find out the cause of this terrible accident as soon as we have both of those data recorders retrieved."
Spohr also told reporters that the aircraft was delayed while approaching its destination airport, however that has not been connected to any cause of the actual accident. The airline chief also confirmed that the A320 had passed a maintenance check the day before the flight and was determined to be safe for takeoff.
According to the Lufthansa low cost subsidiary, the flight was carrying 144 passengers and six crew members. No survivors have been confirmed at this time.
A team of seven investigators from the BEA, accompanied by technical advisers from Airbus and CFM International, are traveling to the accident site. They will be joined by a team of three investigators from the BFU (Bundesstelle für Flugunfalluntersuchung) the BEA’s German counterpart.