What Caused The Germanwings Crash?

On Tuesday morning, a plane flying from Spain to Germany, Germanwings Flight 4U 9525, crashed in an isolated area of southern France. Germanwings, its parent company Lufthansa, and the jet involved — the Airbus A320 — are all considered leaders in safety standards. So — what could have caused the Germanwings crash? Although it's still extremely early, we know that the plane rapidly descended while flying over the Alps and that, contrary to earlier reports, there was no distress signal sent out. But there's still plenty of mystery surrounding the exact cause of the crash. Update: At a French press conference Thursday, it was revealed that co-pilot Andreas Lubitz, 28, had deliberately crashed the plane while the captain was in the bathroom, French authorities said.

The New York Times reports that a spokesperson for the French aviation authority, Direction Générale de l'Aviation Civile, said the plane descended from 38,000 feet from 33,000 feet extremely quickly. According to Thomas Winkelmann, the CEO of Germanwings, the plane descended for eight minutes prior to crashing. But reports differ over whether or not the pilots sent out an SOS prior to the crash — though early reports did claim that the airliner delivered an SOS, air traffic controllers have since claimed they received no alerts. Radio contact with the plane had been lost at 10:40 a.m.; it took off at roughly 10 a.m. Another detail that adds to the mystery? The fact that weather conditions were good in the Alps at the time of the crash.

Just after 11 a.m., the French police were contacted by local authorities. It could take hours for authorities to reach the very remote crash site in the Alps, but investigators are not expecting to find survivors.

The CEO of Lufthansa, Carsten Spohr, said on Twitter that the cause of the crash is unknown, and in a press conference French Prime Minister Manuel Valls said, "We of course don't know the reasons for the crash ... We obviously fear that the 142 to 150 passengers and crew died today, given the conditions of this crash.”

Here's what the flight radar data looks like, according to Flight Radar 24:

There were some clouds in the region, French police said, reported the AP, but no turbulence.