The live flight track of doomed Luthansa Germanwings Flight 4U 9525, an airbus 320, shows the sudden loss of communcation with air traffic controllers and the plane and pilots. This prompted the controllers to issue a distress call on behalf of the flight. Early reports said that the pilots issued a distress call, but that does not seem to be the case.

The plane left Barcelona Spain in the early morning, running about 20 minutes late, and had reached altitude over the Alps on its way to Duesseldorf Germany, when it suddenly descended from about 35,000 feet to 6,800 feet and then disappeared from radar.  6,800 feet would not be high enough to clear the Alps and the plane apparently either impacted a mountain or continued its descent until it hit the ground. The area near the impact is considered fairly remote, with narrow roads and small villages that cater primarily to tourist interested in hiking or skiiling in the area.  A local campground owner reported that he heard a long “8 second” sound from the plane that was not normal. He at first thought it was a fighter jet, but soon realized it was not.

A helicopter has landed at the site and reports that the plane has disintegrated and the largest debris is the size of a small car. They confirm that there could be no hope of survivors among the 144 passengers and 6 crew members.

The Airbus 320 involved was 24 years old, which is considered to be old in the fleet, but not exactly rare. Airbus’ are considered the “workhorses” of the Luthansa fleet and they put the older planes in a “special” maintenance group that is supposed to ensure these older planes get extra attention due to their age.

At this early stage, officials cannot even begin to speculate about the cause for the plane crash. Currently, less than 10% of catastrophic plane crashes occur while the airplane is at cruising altitude. The acts of taking off and landing are much more dangerous in air travel. As authorities begin the grim task of recovering the victims of the crash, they will also hopefully recover the data boxes needed to piece together the final moments of Luthansa Germanwings Flight 4U 9525 whose loss claimed 150 souls.