An Air New Zealand Airbus A320 passenger plane, on a test flight, crashed off France’s southern coast Thursday, killing all seven people onboard, authorities said.
The plane plunged into the Mediterranean at 4:46p.m. local, officials said. A witness told French radio he saw the Airbus dive and plunge into the sea. “It was flying straight, then it turned brutally towards the ground,” the witness, a local policeman, told France Info radio. “I said to myself, it will never pull out and there was a big spray of water.”
Five boats, two diving teams and a helicopter searched for survivors, but now the mission has become one of retrieval.
The cause was not immediately clear, Air New Zealand Chief Executive Rob Fyfe told a news conference in Auckland. He said five New Zealanders and two Germans were aboard the aircraft, which had been leased to German carrier XL Airways and was being tested after a refit prior to its return to New Zealand next month.
The airframe manufacturer Airbus released the following statement
Airbus regrets to confirm that an A320 operated by XL Airways Germany and owned by Air New Zealand was involved in an accident this afternoon. The aircraft was operating a flight from Perpignan, France with seven passengers on board.
The aircraft involved in the accident was MSN (Manufacturer Serial Number) 2500, delivered in July 2005. The aircraft had accumulated approximately 7000 flight hours in some 2800 flight cycles. It was powered by IAE V2500 engines. At this time no further factual information is available.
In line with ICAO Annex 13 international convention, Airbus will provide full technical assistance to the investigation authorities of France, who will be responsible for the investigation into the accident. A team of 5 specialists from Airbus is being dispatched to the site.
The A320 is a twin-engine single-aisle aircraft, seating 150 passengers in a standard two-class configuration. The first A320 entered service in March 1988. By the end of October 2008, 1,960 A320 aircraft were in service with 155 operators. To date, the entire A320 fleet has accumulated some 45 million flight hours in some 24 million flights.
The concerns and sympathy of the Airbus employees go to the families, friends and loved ones affected by the accident.
For further information, please contact:
AIRBUS – MEDIA RELATIONS
Tel.: (33) 05.61.93.33.87 or 05.61.93.34.31 or 05.61.93.10.00