Two Fatalities Reported Among Seven Onboard
ANN REALTIME UPDATE
11.27.08 2000 EST: A witness to Thursday's downing of an
Air New Zealand A320 told a French radio station he saw the plane
dive abruptly into the Mediterranean Sea as it approached to land
"I could see it was an airliner because I saw two large engines.
There was no fire, nothing," the witness, a local policeman, told
France Info radio. "It was flying straight, then it turned brutally
towards the ground. I said to myself it will never pull out and
there was a big spray of water."
Reuters reports search teams have recovered the bodies of two of
the seven people onboard the airliner, which was on a maintenance
checkout flight following a retrofit. The airliner, one of 12
Airbus A320s operated by Air New Zealand, was slated to return to
the carrier following a lease to Germany's XL Airways.
According to an Air New Zealand release, the plane was bound to
Frankfurt on a ferry flight operated by XL Airways... but at
least four employees with the Auckland-based carrier may have been
onboard. The airliner had already been repainted in ANZ livery
(shown below and at bottom).
In a sad bit of serendipity, Thursday's accident occurred on the
29th anniversary of New Zealand's worst aviation accident -- the
CFIT crash of Air New Zealand 901 into the side of Mount Erebus.
All 257 people onboard the DC-10 sightseeing plane were killed.
"To have this incident occur on the same day just adds to the
sense of tragedy," said Air New Zealand CEO Rob Fyfe, who added he
still held out hope survivors might still be found from Thursday's
"I'm hopeful there still may be survivors, early indications are
that the plane and debris were floating on the water, and I
certainly haven't given up hope," he told a news conference in
UPDATE 11.27.08 1321
EST: ANN is monitoring industry reports that indicate the
aircraft involved in this accident is an Air New Zealand 'Freedom
Air' airframe that had been leased to XL Airways
of Germany. The aircraft was reported to have undergone
maintenance prior to the flight (ostensibly a maintenanance test
operation) before it was ditched in the Med.
The aircraft was due to return to
service for Freedom Air, following the end of the XL lease. At
least one fatality is now being reported in the French press and no
survivors have been confirmed.
11.27.08 1147 EST: Search efforts are underway
for as many as seven people onboard an Airbus A320 that ditched in
the Mediterranean Sea off the southwest coast of France
Reuters reports the airliner was on a training flight when it
crashed for as-yet unknown reasons off the coast near Perpignan, at
around 1700 local time. French news channel LCI adds the plane
was attempting to land when it crashed. Debris has been spotted in
A spokesman for the French regional maritime authority said the
aircraft was an A320, one of the most popular narrowbody airliners
CNN states the aircraft wore Air New Zealand livery, though at
this stage it's unknown whether the plane was a new aircraft or one
already in service. The airline lists 12 A320s among its
fleet of mostly Boeing aircraft, of which 10 are leased.
The accident site is approximately 315 miles from Airbus'
headquarters in Toulouse.
Aero-News will update this story as more details become