Page last updated at 13:58 GMT, Friday, 28 November 2008

Seas scoured after Airbus crash

A French navy ship scours the Mediterranean
The French navy has been taking part in the search

French search teams are sweeping rough seas trying to find the bodies of five people missing after an Airbus A320 jet crashed during a test flight.

The plane went into the Mediterranean Sea off the coast of France near Perpignan with two Germans and five New Zealanders on board.

Two bodies have been recovered and search crews are looking for the jet's data recorders and the missing people.

But they say there is little hope of finding anyone alive.

"We could only find some plane debris. The majority of the plane went into the sea, but so far we have only found the biggest sections of the debris," rescue worker Julien Sarrade said.

The plane was leased by Germany's XL Airways from Air New Zealand.

It had been undergoing tests after maintenance work in Perpignan, near the French border with Spain.

Air New Zealand chief executive Rob Fyfe said the cause of the crash was not yet known.

The wreckage of the plane was reported to be in several pieces.

A piece of an Air New Zealand jet, crashed in the Mediterranean
A piece of the aircraft was spotted from the air by the French navy

Some of it has been found lying on a sandy bank at a depth of 35m (115ft feet), according to officials.

Airbus said the plane had been built in 2005 and had accumulated about 7,000 hours of flying time since then.

Air New Zealand leased the plane to XL Airways in 2006 and it was undergoing checks after a refit before being handed back to Air New Zealand, Mr Fyfe said.

On board were two German pilots, four Air New Zealand engineers and an inspector from the New Zealand Civil Aviation Authority, said a spokesman for XL Airways.

The A320 is a single-aisle jet that can seat about 150 passengers and is one of the most popular Airbus jets in use.

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