Comment: Rescue and recovery will be priority

Germanwings planes are seen at the airport in Dusseldorf, Germany. Picture: Getty/AFP
Germanwings planes are seen at the airport in Dusseldorf, Germany. Picture: Getty/AFP
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AT the moment, there is very little information to go on and that is likely to be the case for some time.

There will be a lot of speculation from various commentators and so-called experts, but the primary focus of the authorities will be rescue and recovery.

The investigation will be secondary to that, but of course, investigators will already be preparing to travel to the scene.

The latest news on the Germanwings A320-crash

As it is France, there will be a judicial investigation and the Gendarme will be heavily involved, but there will also be a ‘not-for-blame’ investigation led by the BEA (French Aircraft Accident Investigation Agency).

This will be assisted by colleagues from other countries, which is likely to be Germany, Spain and the USA at least, because of their involvement as State of Operator, Departure and, in the case of the USA, manufacture of some of the components.

Airbus will also send a team, along with the airline.

The A320 is a highly successful design, operated throughout the world.

It is a fly-by-wire aircraft, meaning computers and electronics activate the flying controls rather than physical connections.

This allows the aircraft to do very clever things to make sure it doesn’t operate outside of a safe flying envelope.

The pilots play a key role, with the automation supporting them, and on occasion protecting them from unsafe situations.

There is nothing about the A320’s history or design that would be suspicious at this point.

The operating ‘philosophy’ is common to all of the modern Airbus aircraft - the A318/319/320/321 family (all different lengths of the same aircraft in effect), the A330/340, the A380 and now the A350.

They are popular aircraft with passengers and pilots alike.

Early problems with the aircraft were in part due to pilots changing from classic aircraft to the Airbus philosophy, but the accident rate has demonstrated that this is a fantastic aircraft.

Its sales record backs this up - airlines are very conservative when it comes to buying aircraft and if it had a bad reputation, it would simply not have sold in the thousands like it has.”

• Graham Braithwaite is a Professor of Safety and Accident Investigation at Cranfield University