♪ ♪ harmon. ben: i am ben for zeeland is our top story this hour. a passenger jet crashes in the french alps, with 150 people on board. rescue teams have arrived in the area but no survivors have been found ben: -- found. sarah: the germanwings flight was on its way from barcelona to dusseldorf. we have full coverage in this half hour special.
♪ ben: it is one of europe's worst airline disasters in recent years. 150 people are feared dead after a germanwings flight crashed in the french alps from -- en route from barcelona to dusseldorf. sarah: it went into an eight-minute dissent before hitting the ground. the reason is still unclear. germanwings parent company lufthansa says it is working on the assumption that it is an accident. reporter: it took just hours per search teams to locate one of the plane's black boxes. the flight reporter will give investigators vital information into the cause of the crash. the french interior minister says he is sparing no effort or resource? >> we are putting exhaustive investigative and rescue efforts in place. we have almost 300 firemen and the support of volunteer troops.
we are also mobilizing the resources of the national police force. we have 300 officers here. >> at dusseldorf airport crisis teams were brought into console grieving friends and relatives. at least 67 germans were on board the flight. among them, a group of 16 schoolchildren. authorities say there is little chance that any of the passengers survived. in barcelona distraught relatives are also being counseled. more than 40 spanish nationals are thought to have died in the crash. king felipe of spain was visiting french president francois hollande in paris when news of the tragedy broke. king felipe: all of us, the king -- the queen, president gallant -- hollane would like to
express our sincere condolences to the families and loved ones. >> the french president has set up a crisis center to coordinate information about the accident. but for the moment, only a few facts are known. the airbus a320 took off from barcelona at 9:55 a.m. less than one hour later it began a sudden and rapid eight-minute descent crashing your the french alpine resort of barcelonnette in remote mountain terrain. >> french flight controllers lost radar contact at around 10:53 a.m. and, at the approximate altitude of around 6000 feet. >> the first responders have secured the accident zone, but the bad weather and difficult access are hampering efforts to
get emergency crews and equipment to the area. for the victims' family and friends in dusseldorf, that means more anxious waiting for news of their loved ones. sarah: our correspondent is at dusseldorf airport where that flight was headed, and sadly never arrived. do you have any more details about what caused the crash? reporter: we do not. there is a lot of speculation going on in the media. there is speculation the plane may have had a computer problem the day before the flight took place. but we don't know anything about that really. i just spoke to a lufthansa spokesman, lufthansa being the parent company of germanwings and he says he does not want to join into speculations, and he does not have any answers as of yet. the flight recorders have to be evaluated first and it will take some time, then we will know more.
he also said he does not want to speculate, out of respect for the victims and the victims' families. sarah: that is understandable. it is very early days, and there is so much we don't know. what is the scene like at the airport where you are at? i see a lot of media behind you. what is germanwings doing for the families of people who were in the plane? reporter: it is true, there is a lot of media many camera crews here. the airport is trying to operate as usual as much as possible, but you can also see behind me, this long line of passengers. those are all germanwings passengers who are waiting. they are stranded here, basically, because their flights were canceled. seven flights in all from dusseldorf airport were canceled and 30 germanwings flights overall. the reason is that the crews called in and said they did not feel ready feel in condition to actually fly to come to work
after this horrible accident. i just spoke to an airport spokesperson for -- before. he said that families are being taken care of. there are still 40 to 50 relatives of victims here in the airport, and they are getting treatment, psychologists are speaking to them. having said that, of course, it is also a hard situation for passengers. i was a passenger myself earlier this afternoon when i came here from berlin. and i happened to be on a germanwings flight. i have to tell you it was a strange feeling to be on this flight directly after the crash happened. i could tell that some passengers some of the other passengers were a little tense. there was a man next to me who in very harsh words told another passenger to turn off his laptop as he was told to do by the flight attendants, because there had just been this accident with so many victims
and no one knows what caused the accident. you could tell, he was really tense. i guess it is a very difficult situation for everyone, especially obviously for the victims' families tonight. sarah: where do things go from here? what is next? reporter: well, we heard in the report that they found the flight recorder, anti-french interior minister said that they might evaluate this -- and the french interior minister said that they might evaluate this tonight. maybe we will get some answers as to what caused this crash tomorrow. so that is what is concerning the investigation. obviously for the families, what is next, as i said before, some of them are still here. the other families that have already left, they are being taken home. the airlines are trying to
bring the families together in this very difficult situation for them. sarah: a very difficult situation. thank you for the update from dusseldorf airport. ben: condolences are already coming in. u.s. president barack obama says his thoughts and prayers are with germany and spain. sarah: a local lawmaker in the french alps used the word "pulverized" to describe the crash scene implying no one could have survived. ben: that leaves little hope for the family and friends of those who perished. reporter: for the victims' relatives, the worst possible news. love ones lost in a plane crash. at dusseldorf, psychologists and clergy are trying to lend grieving families some comfort. among those morning -- mourning are the family of 16 students and to teachers -- two teachers,
on their way home from an exchange program in barcelona. >> it is a horrible feeling. i don't know what to say. >> this is the worst thing that could happen to any family. i feel very sorry about these people. that's all i can say. it's terrible. reporter: airport officials are doing everything they can to shield relatives from prying eyes and guarantee them some privacy. a special lounge has been set up where they can be look at -- looked after by professionals. ben: plane crashes are our emotional --an emotional time. we now turn to our guest, who court in its -- coordinates responses. what is the most important thing you can do? >> together with the staff of germanwings and lufthansa and the dusseldorf airport the main
thing relatives need is information. they need to know what happened, when it happened, and maybe if they loved one is still alive -- their loved one is still alive. ben: those communication channels are open? >> i do not know if they have aching indication channel to france at this stage -- if they have a communication channel to france at this stage. but my hope is that my colleagues can help stabilize them emotionally. sarah: you mentioned how important information is. but in this situation it could take weeks to find all the victims and really know what happened. how do you counsel someone in that situation? >> normally we do counseling minutes or hours -- when something happens and people are affected. but for this plane crash maybe the emergency counselor at duesseldorf will take care of
the relatives for days and weeks. sarah: building a relationship. >> right. ben: thank you very much for the information. >> thank you. sarah: the german foreign ministry has set up a telephone hotline for those who think they might have family members on the germanwings flight. ben: that number is +49-30-5000-3000. i repeat, +49-30-5000-3000. sarah: investigators say the cause of the crash is for now a mystery, but many aviation experts do say that the air posted -- airbus 320 plane used by germanwings is amongst the safest in the air. ben: over six to 200 of these are in use worldwide -- 6200 of these are in use worldwide considered some of the best in the industry. reporter: the airbus 6200 took
to the skies in 1987. since 2008 plants producing the airport have sprung up in hamburg and china to cope with surging demand. currently, 6000 planes from the family are in service worldwide. 283 airlines use them. 27 of the craft has been severely damaged or destroyed in crashes, killing 799 people. however, with only 0.16 accidents for every one million take offs, the 320 series is one of the safest planes in the air. it was also one of the first commercial aircraft to rely on the so-called "fly by wire" system. seven interconnected and peter's help operate -- interconnected computers help operate important functions. the computer instructions take precedent over the pilot's, and
only in emergencies can pilots override them. the "fly by wire" system has become an industry standard, despite multiple cases of the technology malfunctioning. ben: an independent aviation expert with 25 years of experience in the industry joins us now from hamburg. my first question to you what our correspondent just brought up this black box could be looked at or analyzed by french authorities tonight at the earliest -- how quickly are you expecting answers? >> first information might be available within the next few days. they will have a first quick look. is data available? is this working or has it been damaged? then they will read out some of the most important parameters, like speed heading altitude, major rudder movements that
perhaps might give a first clue. ben: can you tell us more about this make of airbus? we just heard in our report it is a trusted make? >> absolutely. the a320 is a workhorse a reliable workhorse for many airlines around the world with more than 6000 aircraft flying. with a wonderful safety record. despite this huge fleet we have seen very few accidents all these years and that is something which only very modern aircraft and claim. ben: on top of that, the pilot was said to be very experienced. >> with 6000 hours of time on airbus aircraft. the pilot was very experienced.
he should have been able to deal with any malfunctions, but at the moment we certainly don't know absolutely don't know what happened. it is all guessing. sarah: from the --ben: from the little tiny bits and pieces of clues coming in, are you able to join the dots in any way? >> no. at the moment, there are only question marks. there is no other accident which comes to my mind which might be comparable that we have to be patient -- so we have to be patient and wait for what comes in the next few days. ben: what can we expect in the next few days? >> the next few days, we can expect basic information regarding the flight path and probably information about the communication between the pilots and the air traffic control. ben: thank you very much for
your analysis from hamburg for us. >> you are welcome. sarah: in berlin, the german government was quick to respond to the disaster. they dispatched several high-ranking officials to the crash site, and the german foreign office has set up a special team to deal with the disaster. ben: they are working closely with spanish and french officials, and offering information and support for families of the victims. reporter: shortly after news of the crash broke the foreign office's emergency action team began coordinating the german response. a hotline was set up for friends and family of the passengers of the downed flight. frank-walter steinmeier led the delegation that left tuesday afternoon for the french alps. >> we are in close contact with french authorities. i have already spoken to my french counterpart laurent fabius. we will continue to work together closely.
we have already dispatched aviation experts to the crash site. reporter: speaking to the media german chancellor angela merkel said she would travel to the crash site on wednesday. she also said that what victims' families needed most of all now was support. chancellor merkel: my thoughts and some of these, as well of those -- as those of the entire government, are with the people who lost their lives. the suffering of their families cannot be measured. reporter: the flight was en route to duesseldorf where many of the victims lived, according -- including a group of german school children reportedly on board. the state premier offered her condolences to the victims' families. >> the news of the crash shocked us all. our thoughts are with the family and friends of victims. reporter: in berlin's foreign
office the emergency response team plans to work around the clock in the coming days. right now they are focused on providing information for the victims' families. ben: i'm joined by our political correspondent, terry martin, in berlin. from where you are sitting how would you evaluate the response from the various governments involved? i guess you don't get any quicker and more coordinated than they are at the moment. terry: that's right. there is every indication that the response so far has been very quick and coordinated among the different authorities involved. and there are quite a number of authorities involved, as you can imagine. it is a german flight that has crashed over france, coming from spain. so france, germany and spain are all involved. the response has been very quick. one of the indications of how quick the recovery operation has gone the black box has already
been recovered despite the very difficult terrain where the plane went down. the other part of this operation, of course, is to provide immediate counseling to the loved ones of those who perished on the flight, and that counseling is being provided both in dusseldorf directly at the airport and also for the various family members of the victims in spain. ben: what more can you tell us about the victims? terry: there were 150 people on board the plane. 144 passengers and six crew. the chairman, the ceo of germanwings which was operating this flight, gave a press conference earlier in the afternoon. he said that according to his information, 67 passengers were germans. he was also asked at the press conference directly if there were any chinese nationals on board. he said no, in response to that.
we have since learned a number of schoolchildren were on the plane, 16 schoolchildren, 10th-graders from a school in a town just north of duesseldorf about one hour north. they had been in spain on an exchange program learning spanish. two teachers were on board as well. we were also told one belgian national was on board the plane. as we heard earlier from spanish authorities, according to the spanish deputy prime minister, 45 passengers had spanish family names, he said, indicating clearly that a large number of spanish passengers were on board that plane as well. ben: terry martin, thank you very much for your analysis, from our parliamentary studios here in berlin. sarah: the german president interrupted his state visit to south america to return to germany on account of the crash.
ben: he expressed his condolences. president gauck: like so many people here in germany i'm shocked. i can imagine the horror and mourning and suffering families are enduring. i would like to say with -- to them i am with you in my thoughts and my emotions. i believe endless numbers of germans are as well. we cannot share your pain, but we can empathize. i say to all of those in morning -- mounrning, we are with you. i would also wish to give a word of gratitude to those who are helping others, comforting others and making great efforts to search for others, weather in germany or france. i accompany you with my best wishes. i am far away from you in terms of distance, and very close to
you in my thoughts and in my grief. may you find comfort in the fact that countless people would like to help. ben: the german president there joachim gauck. the a320 is the most successful model turned out by european aircraft passenger -- manufacturer airbus. it is considered very reliable. sarah: it is also popular with low cost airlines such as germanwings for medium haul flights because of its low operating costs. germanwings was originally set up as a low-cost subsidiary of german airline lufthansa. reporter: last year, germanwings took over operation of all lufthansa german and domestic -- european and domestic flights. they did this to stay competitive with low-cost rivals. they changed the color of their logo to black on social media sites immediately following the
crash, and the ceo gave a press conference. >> we are all deeply shocked and saddened. a plane of our subsidiary, germanwings went down in the french alps around 11:00 a.m. local time. our immediate thoughts, concerns and prayers go to the friends and family of our passengers and crew on this black day for our company. reporter: germanwings was founded 13 years ago. its headquarters is located in bonn. the subsidiary has 86 aircraft in its fleet. 20 of the planes are airbus a320's. it is germany's third-largest airline. now the loss of this flight sarah: another blow -- the loss of this flight, another blow for
a company already hurting. ben: the parent company lufthansa held a press conference. was there any hint of verification? >> one piece of information that might be interesting. the plane left barcelona half an hour late, and the vice president holding the conference was unable, or unwilling to say what the problem was. was it a luggage problem a missing passenger a technical issue that may have become crucial later on? we do know that the last technical check of the airplane was yesterday and it was declared fully operational. sarah: this airbus passenger plane was 24 years old. analysts have said, that's nothing out of the ordinary. would you agree? >> i would agree. 24 years of operating service is quite some time. but on the other hand, there are airplanes flying for 30, 40,
even 50 years. a essential components of a commercial airplane are replaced regularly, on a tight time regime. the landing gear, for example or the flaps or even the flight computers. this airplane was equipped with the newest software, the newest computers you can get. so age alone is probably not the reason for this disaster. ben: what about competition? we know, edition is tight between airlines -- competition is tight between airlines. is that sending that affects safety? >> i would not go so far as to say that this competition is affecting safety. we see that low-cost airlines in europe are operating quite reliably. we have to understand, as you said this is a very competitive market. if i as an airline attempts to be lax putting the safety of my
customers or passengers on the line that may be an economic threat no airline wants to get into. germanwings is a subsidiary of lufthansa a company that is internationally known for its high standards concerning safety. sarah: germanwings is a very popular airline in germany and europe as well as it is the first time they have ever had an accident. how much will that hurt them? >> time will tell. germanwings has only been operating since 2002 as a subsidiary of lufthansa. lufthansa wanted to establish germanwings as a strong rival of other low-cost carriers here in europe