tv News Nation MSNBC March 24, 2015 8:00am-9:01am PDT
it was on the way to dusseldorf when it transmitted a digital distress code an hour later, and then disappeared from radar, crashing at an altitude about 6500 feet. emergency helicopters could be seen near the crash site near the town 65 miles north of nice france. joining me anthony row main investigators from france and ann curry reporting for nbc news. let's start with some details that we know here. at this point i should point out, we got a statement in, a spokesperson for the town of haltern, 40 miles from dusseldorf, they confirmed to my colleague that 16 students and two teachers from a school there were booked on germanwings flight, but it is not yet confirmed they were all on board. classes at the school finished early today, there's a team of first aiders and counselors helping friends and relatives.
obviously devastating news to hear the loss of life the loss of potentially young lives here. but this investigation is just beginning. they're not even at the crash site yet. >> we just received reports that they may be arriving in the general vicinity of the crash site and although every aviation accident results in so many injuries of loss of life it is such a tragedy, we have to remember that scheduled airline flying is some of the safest in the world. >> let's talk about some of the details that we know here regarding this. there's a quote from a man who owns a campground near the crash site. says at 11:30, heard a series of loud noises in the air. says there are often fighter jets flying over thought it sounded like that. the noise i heard was long like eight seconds, as if the plane was going more slowly than military speed. another long noise after 30
seconds. where do you believe the investigation immediately has to start? >> well i think we have to start by locating the flight data recorder and cockpit voice recorders. those are going to be critical. there's so much conflicting information developing as a result of this. for example, that aircraft is in mountainous regions. they produce micro weather. although the weather was reported as cloudy but clear at 38,000 feet they had an undercast, we don't know if there were any weather phenomenon in the area. >> we know the crew sent out a digital distress call. what does that mean? >> that means the crew entered the code 7700 into the transponder, the transponder is a radar enhancing communicating computer. and what it does it places the registration number of the
aircraft its altitude and air speed right on the air traffic controller's display. 7700 simply means all bets are off. i should be communicating with you, but i don't have to. you now declare the emergency for me and clear the air space. i do what i need to do to save the airplane. >> let's get more on what you describe there. the crew pilot would make the determination that there's no time to communicate. >> that's a real possibility. when you have extreme cascading emergencies or if this was, and this is pure speculation, if this was a man-made event, a terror event in which the cockpit was under siege, the pilots would have their hands full, and their first responsibility is to aviate save the airplane not to communicate. the fact they put the code in although we would expect communication, is sufficient and
satisfies all regulation. >> let me bring in ann curry reporting for nbc news and katie higgins, former ntsb board member, we are learning some information about passengers on the plane. >> reporter: right. 144 passengers most of them from germany, also significant number from spain and also from turkey. there were men, women, children including babies aboard this plane. from what we understand the plane got to cruising altitude but quickly descended, so passengers were likely still buckled in seat belts and the plane would start to feel like you're coming in for landing, falling from 38,000 to about 5,000 feet within about we understand between 8 and 10 minutes. that would feel like you're coming into a steep landing. we also understand that the crash site is so remote that the responders, about 500 people in france were mobilized to respond
as part of search and rescue teams to the site. difficulty, a lot of difficulty getting to the crash site tamron because not only do they have to go in helicopters, obviously because of terrain, the helicopters can land on a roadside still about four miles from the crash site so as we hear about search and rescue teams landing on the ground and now hiking and presumably now they're ending the hike or about in their hike to get to the crash site the fact is it has been more than four hours since the crash for them to be arriving. so the question now is what are they finding. and there are those who have said there are no survivors. clearly we don't know until we get there. >> clearly learning about the people on board, as i understand this the group of school children is it a break there? were they on a school trip ann,
is that the case? >> well we don't know if these children were actually aboard the plane. as you reported 16 children and two teachers were booked to be on the plane from germany. this is a holiday period in germany. this is a budget plane. and since the fact that today is tuesday, it means essentially that likely these were students there was likely to be students and families aboard the plane, coming back from holiday period in barcelona. it is pretty common for people in dusseldorf in this time of the year where it is fairly cold in germany to spend some time in barcelona, to vacation in barcelona. that seems to be the scenario likely for at least some of the people aboard the plane, tamron. >> all right, ann. get you to stand by. anthony, let me bring you back. ann detailed what we learned in the press conference regarding the descent of the aircraft 38,000 feet to about 5,000 feet
in 8 to 10 minutes. what could that indicate at this very early stage. >> that's about 4500 feet per minute. that does not exceed the air frame limits of this particular airplane, and fly by wire system on the airbus is specifically designed to prevent aircraft from being overstressed by pilot input. that was one of the primary purposes it was developed, not to allow pilots to do things they should not do. as we were talking a little before in the mountainous regions, you develop turbulence develop a couple things that brought down airlines before. there was an american airlines flight that crashed about 20 years ago out west near oklahoma approaching the rocky mountains. they were warned by air traffic control that there were rotor
conditions. these are horizontal tornadoes that spin off the mountain tops and are caused by mountain tops and high winds passing over them. the pilots acknowledged the warning, they actually flew into one of these invisible rotors and the aircraft was lost and all hands were lost. there was no piece bigger than several inches and there was a 30 foot hole in the ground. weather conditions have to be examined. all of the factors, mechanical terrorism, terrorism. >> tom, let's start with what we know regarding weather conditions and catch our audience up to what you know about the airbus a320 and the plane. >> this is an a320 a workhorse aircraft used around the world, more than 6,000 have come off
assembly lines, they're very well built have a very good safety record. the plane left barcelona at 10:01 a.m. up to 38,000 feet. it was only at 38,000 feet cruising altitude for about a minute, that's it then began this descent, starting at 10:45 a.m. in what's described as an orderly descent, 3 to 4,000 feet a minute as anthony suggested until it crashed into a mountain at 6,000 feet. i think you have a couple of suggestions here couple of questions. if this was an orderly descent, yet at some point along the way, crew transponded an emergency distress code, not a verbal may day, but code of 7700, an issue, not a hijacking, what were they dealing with. was the plane coming down on auto pilot, is that a reason it was orderly descent? the weather was relatively good
with about 50 degrees or so on the ground. as for the plane itself 24 years old. it has been in the lufthansa fleet for quite awhile. lufthansa of course owns the budget carrier, germanwings. and the crew itself, captain has ten years experience. you mention there were 16 school children on board, two teachers as well just compounding the tragedy. so the priority when they get to the crash scene is going to be securing the victims, but also identify as quickly as possible flight data recorder cockpit voice recorder. the cockpit voi recorder captures not just voice transmissions, radio transmissions that air traffic control has, also going to have ambient conversation in the cockpit. you hear the pilot, co-pilot talk about whatever problem they have or if they're incapacitated, maybe you won't hear anything. maybe there's silence. that's all part of this. then the flight data recorder
captures hundreds of parameters of data, configuration of the plane, engine performance, heading, altitude how was the plane performing. how were the systems functioning. automaker all of that figures into what happened. this is a fly by wire plane. it is one of those planes that broke the mold if you will when airliners, specifically airbus started to go to a more computerized way of flying with multiple redundancies to take out as much as possible the human factor that could lead to errors. it has been a phenomenal aircraft, with only a .14 fatality rating. .14 out of a million takeoffs experienced a fatality. it is an incredibly safe plane. this morning, we have many more questions than answers. >> we also know tom, was it december, forgive me that the air asia flight 8501 was an
a320, 155 passengers 7 crew members on board. make note just getting in new video of the staging area as investigators have just arrived there. i want to go back to ann curry. it is a multinational investigation. we've already heard from france's president regarding the investigation and what's happening there. what else can you tell us? >> reporter: well i can't tell you very much except investigators are clearly as you heard from tom, have a lot of questions to answer. have a lot of questions they want to answer. i do know that spanish king and queen were in paris. they happened to be there today, cancelled everything and returned. it would seem to me -- one more thing i can add to that tamron we heard reports that angela merkel from germany would be heading to the crash site relatively soon. i think it is fair to assume there will be investigators from
all three countries, from spain, germany, and from france as hollande said the president of france, this tragedy occurred on our soil but clearly the majority of people aboard the plane are from germany as well as spain, and i would be very surprised if their investigators are already on the way. >> france's interior minister is headed to the location. we should hear remarks on his arrival soon as well. let me go also with us kitty higgins, former ntsb board member. we know the ntsb is monitoring but not participating in the investigation at this time. but we have gone through a laundry list of critical information as tom pointed out that we could learn from the boxes on board the plane. what do you believe is the key question at this very early stage as we watch the video coming in of the team just arriving. >> well good morning. let me extend my sympathies to
all of those families who lost a loved one in this accident. the ntsb is as you said monitoring. i talked to them this morning. they will participate if asked, but at this point they have not been asked. the french will take the lead on the investigation with support from germany and spain and others. i think the critical question is to look at obviously what happened was this an accident or was it something else. until we get the data from the data recorder and cockpit voice recorder, we won't know that for sure, until the investigators can look at the wreckage. as everyone has said the circumstances are unusual, given the safety record of both the airline and the aircraft. i would also say i have seen reports that the issue, there's a question about whether an emergency code was actually sent. i think the airwings airline
said they can't confirm that and there are mixed reports from france and others. all the more reason to get the black boxes and see what exactly happened. >> you send out for information purposes a list of possibilities, and one of the possibilities mentioned by tom, sudden loss of air pressure which could be caused in a fracture in the hull. another possibility investigators consider is loss of an engine. a third possibility would consider something obviously criminal happened here. tom, this is where the investigation will continue as they reach the crash site ran could take time. >> there on the ground the weather looks not terribly inviting. listen there are many different scenarios, fire on board, smoke smoke event, that could in kpas at a time the crew. all in the realm of possibility. nothing is off the table here.
i want to underscore this. what confounds the experts, that orderly descent that's not an emergency descent, it is an orderly descent, not terribly aggressive but not passive either suggesting that either somebody was deliberately trying to get the plane down to altitude where maybe you're no longer dealing with an air pressure issue, or because they have something else going on they're concerned about integrity of the hull if you will of the air frame. but once they got down if it was simply a matter of pressurization, for example, the point would have been get the plane to 10,000 feet and level off. and reorganize thoughts and talk to air traffic controllers, get to the nearby airport, but the fact that the plane continued to descend is confounding. that flies in the face of what would be standard protocol here. then if you have an orderly descent like that over the course of nearly ten minutes, eight to ten minutes, there's
certainly 20 seconds that you have to key your microphone and tell controllers what's going on. if that didn't happen if there was no may day call then that leads to this scenario that the crew may have been incapacitated. again, this is a list of possibilities. but you clearly have a situation here where whatever happened would seem to overwhelmed crew in some way. >> kitty, let me get your thoughts on that. >> tom is right. i think again, we have a lot of information at this point but don't have confirming information. until the investigators can get to the wreckage get the black boxes, we really won't know. as has been said before in many of these accidents it usually is a chain of events and not just one event. and we can sit here and speculate and muse about what may have happened but we need to get those investigators to
the aircraft site. find the wreckage, protect bodies and remains, and get the black boxes. >> thank you very much for joining us. greatly appreciate it. tom, you're going to continue to bring the latest information as will ann in paris with us. we will have more on the breaking news coverage of crash of germanwings flight 9525. 152 people on board, including children. at this point at least they were listed as possible passengers on the flight. we will continue to follow the coverage as well. news conference from the french interior minister is expected soon. also coming up "the wall street journal" reporter wrote the story accusing israel of spying on iran's nuclear talks with the united states in hopes of sinking a deal that reporter will join us live. join the conversation online. find the team at "newsnation." we will be right back. in new york state, we're reinventing how we do business so businesses can reinvent the world. from pharmaceuticals to 3d prototyping, biotech to clean energy.
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we continue to follow breaking news in the south of france where a passenger jet with 152 people on board crashed in the french alps. foigtsz fear there are no survivors. french officials say the a320 is believed to have been gone down at altitude of 6500 feet. this is video of the search area, the debris field is about a mile wide, we are told. and this is about a half hour from marseilles. nbc's meteorologist bill karins has more on not just weather conditions at the time of the crash but also weather conditions that search crews face now. >> saw the pictures with the helicopters, you see in the background, the cloud deck lowered in the region and the
crash is about 6,000 feet clouds are lowering. can only get there by helicopter anyway then they have to go through low clouds. you can see it in the background. looks clear where they are. there are reports of light rain. there's going to be rain moving into the region the next 24 hours. but it is the cloud deck that's very important. we are talking about the location of the crash site about here. you can see we were kind of clear. when the plane went down weather wasn't too bad. now clouds are streaming in moisture off the mediterranean, that's why we have cloudy conditions and light rain. unfortunately doesn't look better in the next 24 hours or so. as far as the actual elevations go, we are mostly talking about peaks between 4 to 6,000 feet some a little higher couple of ski areas near where the crash occurred, too, and it is past winter. everything is snow covered. one of the million dollar questions, what happened when the plane was at cruising altitude at 38,000 feet. what forced this plane after cruising about four minutes. you're up on the flight all of
a sudden you feel the plane level off. that happened with all of these passengers on board, four minutes of that. then it started to descend. winds at 34,000 feet no problems at all it appeared with the weather in there. what gets me now we are seeing pictures of where it went down. this is the most rugged terrain there is tamron plus coming out of winter high elevation. this is what the terrain looks like in the area. they're going to have trouble collecting it even if it was a sunny day, the debris let alone finding black boxes. nothing sounds pleasant about it at all. >> does not. a terrifying and your heart goes out to the families now. >> and people on board the plane for the 10 12 minutes they had to go through the ordeal. >> absolutely. we received a statement, not terribly long ago, 30 minutes ago from a school that 16 students and two teachers were supposed to board that flight. we don't have confirmation they got on the plane. they're feared to be on the
plane as part of a school trip. bill points out the terrain on the best day would be very difficult. now we are looking at these conditions on the ground now that make this not impossible but this will be very very slow. we continue to follow today's tragic news. the crash of germanwings flight 9525 152 people on board. we are told that does include two infants. we will bring you the very latest developments as they happen. we will be right back. there's nothing more romantic than a spontaneous moment.
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>> translator: we are mobilizing a variety of policemen, 300 troops. the first ones on the site today were the high mountain range policemen. they have much more intimate knowledge of the terrain and they were able to fill us in on what happened. we mobilized ten helicopters to facilitate the search and rescue. the mixture of all resources are intended to help the search and rescue mission, even in the
violent shock leaves little hope for the outcome. we are still engaging in an intensive search and this is all happening under the leadership of marseilles i would like to thank you for being here today as well as your diligence. all of these resources will be coordinated by the prefecture. and any additional resources are coming from the province area as well as our defense department. for now, i won't say anything more. this tragic tragic event has occurred and so now we must focus on the rescue mission.
we need to figure out what the causes of this terrible tragedy are. we need to remain prudent until we have results. >> getting more information as you heard from france's interior minister indicating the high mountain range police, they're known, they know the terrain better than anyone else have been called in immediately. some ten helicopters, a military plane, and 300 troops headed to this location. difficult location honestly as we heard over and over to reach where the crash site is. 152 people on board the flight. this is an image that's just come in of the terrain and what appears to be pieces or perhaps debris from the crash. it is interesting the interior
minister still referring to this as search and rescue despite comments made earlier from france's president hollande indicating the worst case scenario or fears that all on board died in the crash, but at this point a glimmer of hope that this is a rescue effort but again, from images and information coming in from other leaders, they fear all those on board that flight have perished. we are following another major story this morning. israel prime minister netanyahu denying that israel spied on closed door talks between the u.s. and iran over a nuclear deal. according to the newspaper, prime minister netanyahu used classified information to urge members of congress to oppose any agreement. the report says the espionage did not upset the white house as much as israel sharing inside information from u.s. lawmakers and others to drain support from a high stakes deal.
the report also says prime minister netanyahu and israeli ambassador to the u.s., ron dermer knew it would damage relations with the white house but determined it was acceptable cost. netanyahu says these allegations are falls, the state of israel does not conduct espionage against the united states and false allegations are clearly intended to undermine the strong ties between the united states and israel and the security and intelligence relationship we share. joining me adam thanks for your time. >> let me get reaction to that strongly worded comment from the prime minister spokesperson. >> right. so what the israelis are saying they're denying, standard policy to deny it spies on the united
states directly. the story we wrote, what israeli officials and u.s. officials say is basically what happened is that the israelis are spying on the negotiations and the iranian delegation. when john kerry and others provide information, for example, the israelis are able to sweep up those details because they spy aggressively. in the past largely as a result of aid from the united states they basically are able to collect that information from the iranian side. what they're saying is they don't spy directly on the united states and its allies but what they're not saying in that statement is that they basically have this back door what some officials say is a back door to get u.s. communications. >> which is pointed out in your report writes israeli officials denied spying directly on u.s.
network agencies and received it from other means, close surveillance of iranian leaders. the key is incredibly intriguing, what the white house was upset about, the reaching in and attempting to persuade u.s. lawmakers to make it difficult for the administration to secure the deal. you make a point february 3rd that ambassador dermer huddled with joe manchin from west virginia who said it was breach of protocol to accept that invitation to speak before congress. >> right. and something i would like to give the viewers to keep in mind, the reason the white house said the white house knows about the spy effort against the negotiations is because u.s. intelligence agencies were spying on israel and had intercepted communications in which israeli officials referred to information that could only come from closed door
negotiations. important thing to keep in mind this is a spy versus spy thing. we are spying on them they're spying on negotiations. everybody involved is trying to get as much information as they can because this is so important to both sides. and for bibi netanyahu, it is existential existential. he spent his career trying to keep iran from getting a nuclear weapon. everyone is getting more aggressive, more raw, kicking off the gloves. as far as things on the hill what we see is that basically you have the israeli officials going up to the hill and trying to explain why the israelis think this is a bad deal and in the process, release some information they collected from spy efforts as well as things they received from the french
government. >> and what our own andrea mitchell reports, to your point in your piece, you say the white house discovered the operation when the u.s. intelligence agency spied on israel's intercepted communications. andrea mitchell reports to us that as a result the state department stopped providing israel with intelligence briefings on talks. so where are we now regarding i would assume not the u.s. itself but the relationship with netanyahu with the latest development being disclosed and made public. >> i think what this really shows is sort of the distrust on both sides. the white house doesn't trust netanyahu and that's part of the reason why the u.s. scaled back some of the information that they were providing to the israelis because of concerns about leaks and that they were using this information the americans were providing against the white house. and the israelis in turn don't
trust the white house to negotiate the right type of deal. so you really i mean as you get closer to a deal if a deal is reached, you can expect tension is only going to increase the closer it gets because this is so fundamentally important to both sides, to their legacies. the kind of car crash, it is just going to continue until it reaches some conclusion. even after it reaches that conclusion you can expect tension to continue if they reach a deal over how that deal is implemented. >> thank you for joining us. "the wall street journal" reporter discussing your report. programming note we will hear from president obama later today. he will meet with the afghan president at the white house. later this hour the two leaders will have a news conference at 2:20 eastern time. msnbc will certainly carry that live. up next we are going back to breaking news. the crash of germanwings flight
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turning back to the breaking news we are following. the crash of germanwings plane in a remote area of the french alps in southern france with 152 people on board. this is a new photo we have gotten in of the crash site from a french newspaper. all on board are feared dead including two infants and group of school children. the airbus a320 was traveling from barcelona to dusseldorf germany, when it transmitted a distress code, then disappeared from radar just before 11:00 a.m. local time. about an hour after takeoff this morning. the president, francois hollande calls it a tragedy. the spain king and queen there at the time of the crash returned home.
the victims included many from spain, germans, and turkish nationals. germany foreign minister says a crisis room was set up for relatives of the passengers. german chancellor angela merkel is reportedly headed to the crash scene along with france's interior minister who earlier delivered a statement along with merkel saying the news was harrowing and put her nation in deep mourning. this is video of the search and recovery crew at the staging site near the debris field. msnbc's angie goff joins me with more on the location and search site. what can you tell us? >> take you where they're searching now, take a look. this is in meolans-revel. you can see how sparsely in inhabited. at the time of the tragedy, we want to show you the plane took off around 10:00 a.m. from barcelona this morning. it was headed to dusseldorf
germany. and this just in the spokesperson for the town of haltern, 40 miles from the destination, telling us that 16 students and two teachers from a nearby school were booked on germanwings on this flight but it has not been confirmed they were on the plane. working to confirm that information now. shortly after losing contact with french radar an hour into the flight we know the plane went down crashed here in the foothills of the southern alps, around 10:53 a.m. local time. looking at lives feared gone we want to remind you, we know 6 crew members, 144 passengers were on board, as you mentioned two of those infants, two of them babies. france's president saying the victims were german spanish, turkish. no french were on the flight. the aircraft 24 years old. rather young. and the last routine check on the plane was done yesterday, according to a carrier which by
the way has an excellent safety record. as more details of the crash come in tamron condolences surfacing online an outpouring of facebook tribute page mostly in german made in tribute to victims. >> thank you very much. got this in german official says a high school group was on that crashed plane. spanish school says 16 students involved. german official saying a high school group was on that crashed plane. spanish school says 16 students involved. i want to bring in daily beast contributor specializing in aviation, clive irving author of "wide body" and retired captain tom bun, 40 experience flying commercial and military planes. we were talking in commercial break about protocol if a plane was in trouble in this particular area what a pilot would likely do. >> yes. if you had a problem with
pressurization and needed to descend, you would descend rapidly. more than this plane did. this descent was normal. the other was to turn from the alps. it was normal descent rate the plane was going straight along its course. it would indicate to me the only thing that's consistent with this is that the pilots were incapacitated or there was a hijacking in progress that caused this. >> clyde, let me bring you in. tom costello also. this orderly descent, does not at this point make sense. >> i think the whole center of the mystery lies in the fact that what we call descent. the ceo described it as lasting eight minutes, and it was not a dive in any sense, wasn't a sudden dive. it was a steady descent over the mountains. the previous guest said he doubted it was a pressurization
but i am not is so sure. i think the first thing pilot has to do if there's loss of pressure, this happened so fast whatever happened happened so fast when the plane was at cruise height that the crew seemed not to have had opportunity to send a verbal message. there was automatic distress signal, not a verbal message. that's telling. either the crew were incapacitated or so preoccupied with what was going on didn't have time to send a message. you must remember this is one of the most densely monitored pieces of air space in the world, watched over by radar from spain, france and switzerland. and in that eight minutes, there was no communication. the radar knew the plane was descending, shouldn't have been descending shouldn't descend to dusseldorf until well over france and into germany. fact one, it started to descent, unexplained. fact two, no explanation why it was descending. this suggests some structural
failure. and structural failure related i think to some kind of loss of cabin pressure leaking air, and this condition called hi pox ee a, renders crew and passengers unconscious, as previous guest said it did continue the same direction, and first thing a pilot has to do under these circumstances is lose altitude get below 10,000 feet where he can equalize pressure inside and outside the cabin. if over a mountain range, can't descend easily without hitting a mountain. >> help me understand and the audience as well when you say that this was a fast rate. when we hear 8 minutes, that seems like that would be an eternity. not just for the crew but for the passengers as well. >> yes. so that would be consistent with beginning descent, then some reason the pilots losing consciousness and the plane flying itself basically into a
mountain. these losses of air pressure happen several ways. there's a sudden loss of air pressure, it is catastrophic the plane breaks or less explosive loss of decompression, it inkpas tats the crew and slow decompression that can take ages to happen. it is very early in analysis of the flight. we have to zero in on this one moment, at the end of the cruise when it starts to descend. what caused it what was the reason to descend at that point, and why particularly this is fundamental, why was there no communication because radar controllers would have tried desperately to find out what was going on. it was departing from planned altitude and course. >> tom let me bring you in. that's a point that we are not clear on if the digital distress call or code went out at all. >> that's right, yes, there was report that it was sent but we don't have confirmation of it. but in regards to what your
other guest said it is just as easy to make a radio control as to set the transponder. so that doesn't -- i don't think that means anything. pilots trained if you have a decompression problem to put on your oxygen mask the first thing you do then you start a rapid descent, you're required to descend to an altitude where no one needs oxygen in four minutes. this took eight minutes. >> to clyde's point, this terrain and the circumstances that the pilot would have been facing? >> he would have turned from the terrain and made a rapid descent, that's not what happened. clive, thank you very much and tom, both of your expertise and insight on this. we'll be right back with new details coming in to msnbc regarding the crash site and the latest information on those who are believed to be on board.
morning. france's prime minister says no survivors have been found. at least 150 people were on board including two babies and several students. all passengers and crew are feared dead. this is an image we've just gotten in of the crash scene from a french newspaper. the flight was traveling from barcelona to dusseldorf when it transmitted a distress code. that is a detail we're getting conflicting information, but earlier it was indicated that a distress call digital distress call was sent out from the crew. now, the flight though disappeared from radar just before 11:00 a.m. local time. about an hour after takeoff. the plane went down in the remote area of the frenchal ps making search and rescue effort -- to say it is extremely difficult is putting it mildly here. we're getting new information. the u.s. state department says that it is reviewing whether any u.s. citizens were on board
germanwings airbus flight as well as we're getting some information regarding whether or not the plane transmitted this emergency distress call. right now reuters is saying according to french air traffic controllers that quote, we did not pick up any emergency alert during the time that it was tracked, the flight was tracked. this was confusing information on whether the plane transmitted a distress code on the transponder. we're working to verify as much as possible. as you well know this investigation is just beginning and the majority of the search and rescue team not having -- having not reached the site of the crash at this point. that does it for this edition of quts nation. up next, quts"andrea mitchell reports." ♪ ♪
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crash in the french alps where a debris field is scattered across mountainous terrain. 150 passengers were on board the germanwings airbus 320. a budget airline separated by lufthansa. officials do not expect any survivors. among the passengers booked spanish and turkish and german citizens including 16 students and two teachers from a school outside dusseldorf. investigators admit there are very few clues as to what went wrong. what we do know less than an hour into the flight the plane made an orderly descent at 38,000 feet down to 8,000 feet when all contact was lost. right now the french president and the spanish king are in emergency meetings in paris as search teams and helicopters assemble near the crash site. the state department is reviewing whether any u.s. citizens were on board that flight.
good day, i'm andrea mitchell in washington. let's go to the latest on that crash of germanwings flight 4u9525 joining us now is tom costello, our aviation expert. and reporting from paris for nbc news is ann curry. tom, what do we know about what happened and why that plane went from 38,000 feet to cruise altitude all the way down to 8,000 feet? >> let me give you a couple of headlines if i could. i've been trying to work the story for the last few minutes off air, i got in touch with flight radar 24 which does a tremendous job tracking aircraft around the world. they say it has no indication this plane ever did transmit a coded distress signal. there was some confusion about that this morning. it now appears that that distress message came from french air traffic controllers when they realized the plane had it appears gone off radar and possibly crashed into a mountain.