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Europe

No Hope of Finding Survivors in Airbus Test Crash

Investigations are underway after a A320 jet crashed into the Mediterranean Sea with two German pilots and five New Zealander crew members on board.

Rescue ships search the zone of the plane crash

Rescue operations were interrupted by poor weather conditions

A test flight of an Airbus A320 jet crashed into the Mediterranean Sea near Perpignan in south-western France late Thursday afternoon, Nov. 27. Of the seven people on board, two bodies were recovered from part of the wreckage and five are missing.

Five French navy ships scoured the area, but were hindered by poor weather conditions. The rescue workers gave up the search during the night and a Perpignan prosecutor told reporters that there was "no hope of finding survivors."

One witness said he saw the plane dive abruptly plunging into the sea. "I could see it was an airliner because I saw two large engines. There was no fire, nothing," said the witness, a local policeman, who spoke to 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," he said.

Investigation resumes

The A320, a twin-engine single aisle jet that normally seats 150 passengers, had been leased to XL Airways, a German charter carrier and the two pilots on board were German. The French authorities said that the rest of the crew, which included the captain, a flight inspector and engineers, came from New Zealand.

In Auckland, Air New Zealand had confirmed that it had leased the A320 to XL Airways for the last two years, and that the aircraft was due to be handed back in Frankfurt shortly.

The jet was being serviced at EAS Industries in Perpignan and had been circling the air for 90 minutes before crashing, according to an emergency services spokesman. Airbus said the A320 had logged 7,000 hours of flight time since it was built in 2005.

Accidents during the servicing of a plane are rare. The last time a test flight crashed was a year ago Toulouse-Blagnac airport, causing some serious injuries.

The investigation into finding the remains of the wreckage and black box flight recorders to help determine the cause of the crash resumes during the day Friday.

In addition to French aviation investigators, two from Germany have been sent to the site of the wreckage. Airbus had also said it would assist authorities in investigating the crash and sent specialists to the site, but declined to speculate on the possible causes.

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