The Germanwings plane that crashed in France is said to use a wide-range of Airbus single-aisle aircrafts, popular with many airlines including low-cost carriers such as easyJet.
The plane, flight number 4U 9525 and believed to be carrying 144 passengers and six crew, had left Barcelona just after 10am local time and had been due to arrive in Dusseldorf at 11.49am local time.
Created in 2002, the low-cost airline is owned by giant German carrier Lufthansa, with its headquarters in Cologne. Its main operating bases are at Berlin Tegel airport, Cologne Bonn airport, Dortmund airport, Dusseldorf airport, Hamburg airport, Hannover airport, and Stuttgart airport.
It is said to fly to more than 110 destinations through Europe and North Africa, and also handles Lufthansa’s domestic service within Germany.
The accident is believed to be the first ever time that a budget airline jet has crashed in Europe.
Carsten Spohr, chief executive of Lufthansa which owns Germanwings, said in statement: “We do not yet know what has happened to flight 4U 9525. My deepest sympathy goes to the families and friends of our passengers and crew.
“If our fears are confirmed, this is a dark day for Lufthansa. We hope to find survivors.”
On its website, Airbus reports that an A320 family aircraft takes off or lands every 2.5 seconds of every day.
It is used by many airlines including low-cost carriers such as easyJet. British Airways operates 120 Airbus A320s.
The planes are produced in Toulouse, France, Hamburg, Germany, and Tianjin, China. Airbus says A320 aircraft fly to some of the world’s most challenging airports including Himalayan airfields in China, India and Bhutan.
There are currently 6,191 A320 aircraft in operation across the world, according to Airbus.
The A320 was the first to have a fly-by-wire system which replaced manual controls with an electronic interface. The pilot uses a sidestick to input commands into a computer.
Despite the system being seen as safe and energy-efficient, the last A320 to crash was AirAsia Flight QZ8501, which was flying from Surabaya to Singapore in December. All 162 people on board died.
According to airsafe.com, there have been at least 12 fatal accidents involving the Airbus A320 model since 1988.