France's leading aviation investigator examining the Germanwings crash says it's too early to draw conclusions from its audio recording. The New York Times claims one pilot was locked out of the cockpit.
Remi Jouty, the director of France's BEA aviation agency said "words" had been heard on the cockpit voice recorder recovered at the alpine crash site in southern France.
An initial analysis would take "a matter of days," Jouty said while declining to say whether the Airbus 320's pilots were conscious as the plane made an unscheduled eight-minute descent before crashing into a mountainside, killing all 150 occupants.
Jouty was speaking at a news conference at BEA headquarters outside Paris.
'Knocking at cabin door'
The New York Times early on Thursday quoted an unnamed investigator as saying that retrieved recording indicated that one of the pilots had left the cockpit and could not get back in.
The unnamed source, said the NYT, had claimed that the pilot's knockings on the door grew stronger.
"There is never an answer," it quoted the source as saying. "You can hear he is trying to smash the door down."
Germanwings' parent company Lufthansa said: "We have no information that can confirm The New York Times report,"
The New York Times also quoted a senior military official involved in the investigation as saying the early phase of the flight as recorded in audio pointed to a "very smooth, very cool" conversation between the pilots.
Germanwings Flight 9525 was en route from Barcelona to Düsseldorf in Germany.
Jouty said the second, data black box had not been found. He said he could not confirm French President Francois Hollande's remark that its casing had been discovered.
Cazeneuve: terror not main hypothesis
On Wednesday, French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said a terror attack was not the main hypothesis being worked on as forensic teams examined fragments on the rugged crash site.
Carsten Spohr, the chief executive of Lufthansa, the parent company of its budget subsidiary Germanwings, who himself is a pilot, said on Wednesday "we still cannot understand what happened yesterday."
Spohr said his airline "never in its history has lost an aircraft in cruise flight."
Lufthansa said two charter flights were being made available for family members to get close to the crash site near Seyne-les-Alpes.
The locality, which recovery teams are using as a base, was visited by the leaders of Germany, France and Spain on Wednesday.
The German news agency DPA quoted a French police spokesman near the crash site as saying that the first human remains were recovered on Wednesday afternoon.
Germanwings chief executive Thomas Winkelmann said his company he already contacted most of the families of the victims.
They included 72 German citizens, 35 Spaniards as well as victims from Australia, Argentina, Belgium, Britain, Colombia, Denmark, Iran, Israel, Japan, Mexico, the United States and Venezuela.
Some could have dual nationalities. Spain's government said 51 of its citizens had died in the crash. The town of Sant Cugat, near Barcelona, said three generations of one family had been on board the flight.
Barcelona's Liceu opera house held two minutes silence at noon Wednesday for two German singers on board who were returning to Düsseldorf - Maria Radner and Oleg Bryjak.
Mourning for exchange pupils
Residents of Haltern, a rural town 80 kilometers (50 miles) from Düsseldorf, mourned the loss of 16 high-school students and two teachers, who were returning from a week-long exchange visit to Llinar del Vallès, near Barcelona.
Principal Ulrich Wessel of Haltern's Joseph König High School said the tragedy had rendered many speechless.
Officials in Llinar said the host Spanish pupils were also in shock.
Some three dozen other German pupils who had also been on a separate exchange visit to Llinar del Vallès returned safely to Hamburg on Wednesday afternoon on board a Germanwings flight.
Ten of their exchange group chose, however, to travel back to Hamburg by train, according to DPA.
ipj/rc (Reuters, dpa, AFP, AP)