French investigators are searching for the reason why a German Airbus ploughed into an Alpine mountainside, killing all 150 on board. As David Pollard reports there's a lot at stake for the companies involved.
A tragedy - very literally - shrouded in mystery. Clouds blotting out the crash site at Seyne-Les-Alpes in France, hindering efforts to recover the victims. Or gather clues as to why they died. One breakthrough: a 'black box' flight recorder found. According to the French interior minister, Bernard Cazeneuve. (SOUNDBITE) (French) FRENCH INTERIOR MINISTER, BERNARD CAZENEUVE, SAYING: "It is damaged but it's possible to reconstruct the black box in order to examine it in the coming hours and determine from the examination of this black box a number of details about this catastrophe." Germanwings says its Airbus lost altitude for eight minutes before hitting the ground. No emergency radio call was made. Terrorism is not seen as a cause at this point - prompting some to question the plane itself, and its makers. The Airbus A320 is one of the world's most used passenger jets. Aviation expert Michael Barr says of 12 accidents over 15 years, most were human error in an increasingly technological age for pilots. (SOUNDBITE) (English) UNIVERSITY OF SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA AVIATION SAFETY EXPERT MICHAEL BARR SAYING: ''I always like to put it this way, previous airplanes, you were in charge. You were the pilot. Current airplanes, sometimes you become the passenger and the airplane flies you.'' Germanwings staff paid their own silent tribute to the victims. The airline reportedly cancelling some flights as some crew members refused to fly. 16 million take its short- and medium-haul flights in and out of German cities every year. This the first time it's dealt with a crash - and its repercussions - in its 12-year history. Joe Rundle of ETX Capital. (SOUNDBITE) (English) JOE RUNDLE, ETX CAPITAL, SAYING: ''Any crash first and foremost is tragic, but it does have an effect on the airline. It blemishes their safety record and in a market where there's a huge amount of choice, people will make gut reactions and people will stay away from Germanwings and Lufthansa in the short term.'' Parent company Lufthansa has grown used to unwelcome scrutiny. A wave of pilot strikes at times grounding nearly half its long-haul fights. And costing more than 200 million euros in lost profits last year. It calls the crash 'inexplicable'. But could it too now face the radical restructuring and job losses that hit Malaysia airlines after the devastating impact of its two jetliner disasters? One of which remains unsolved - as does, for the moment, Germanwings Flight 4U 9525.