Last updated: 11:06 AM ET, Wed March 25 2015

What We Know and Don’t Know About The Germanwings Crash

Impacting Travel | Rich Thomaselli | March 25, 2015

What We Know and Don’t Know About The Germanwings Crash

Photo via Twitter

Here’s what we know, and don’t know, a day after the tragic crash of Germanwings Flight 9525 in the French Alps.

WHAT WE KNOW: A Germanwings Airbus A320 en route from Barcelona, Spain to Dusseldorf, Germany, crashed less than an hour after takeoff in a remote area of southeastern France in the Alps mountain range. There were 150 passengers and crew aboard; none are believed to have survived.
WHAT WE DON’T KNOW: Exactly why it crashed. What happened during that relatively short window between takeoff and the crash? Investigators have not ruled out terrorism but they do not believe that is the likely cause at this point.

WHAT WE KNOW: By some miracle, one of the black boxes was found within hours of rescuers reaching the crash site.
WHAT WE DON’T KNOW: Is it salvageable? The cockpit voice recorder that was found was badly damaged but French officials say it is “useful” and they should be able to save it. It would go a long way to determining what happened during those fateful minutes when the plane began to descend.

WHAT WE KNOW: The plane made a slow, controlled descent from 38,000 feet until air traffic control lost contact with the flight at about 7,000 feet.
WHAT WE DON’T KNOW: Air traffic controllers issued a distress call. Why didn’t the pilots? Were they too busy navigating the plane? Were they unconscious, and did the plane’s computers take over and control the descent until it crashed into the mountainside? And what was behind the decision not to turn and land at the Marseilles airport 32 miles from the last point of contact?

WHAT WE KNOW: The Airbus 320 in question was 24 years old with more than 58,000 flight hours on it.
WHAT WE DON’T KNOW: How old is too old? Was this particular Germanwings plane, first used by parent company Lufthansa after being delivered in 1991, in good shape mechanically? Was everything up to date? And how important was the repair to the nose gear landing wheels made just the day before the crash?

WHAT WE KNOW: There are more than 700 police, fire and rescue workers on the scene at a base camp at the foot of the crash site.
WHAT WE DON’T KNOW: How long will the recovery take? Jean Louis Bietrix, a local mountain guide told The Independent newspaper, "It is incredible. There is not one bit of that aircraft that has not been exposed to the open air. The terrain is perilous – very rocky and very steep, a gradient of up to 80 percent in places. It is very difficult to describe what must have happened to those on board. They have ended up in a very wild and lonely place."

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