Germanwings Disaster Marks First Crash For The Budget Airliner

Mar 25, 2015

The airline operating the plane that crashed in the French Alps says the plane had been inspected and found safe Monday. Officials in the German town that lost 16 schoolchildren in the disaster say there will be no classes tomorrow, but children will be welcomed for counseling.

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Transcript

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

We go now to Dusseldorf, Germany. That was the destination of the Germanwings flight. NPR's Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson arrived there a few hours ago, and she joins us now. Soraya, what's the mood like in Germany?

SORAYA SARHADDI NELSON, BYLINE: Well, people across the country are pretty shaken. This is a very rare occurrence to have a plane crash. And it comes at a time when people are very concerned about terrorism and that sort of thing. And that's sort of the tone that this initially took because of the fact that there was no contact from the plane before it crashed.

But it's interesting also - I mean, I got a sense of that mood on the plane as - ‘cause I was actually flying the same route, more or less, that the ill-fated flight did today to get here to Dusseldorf. I was on vacation. And I was on this plane with lots of Germans. It was a Ryanair flight, which is a competitor to Germanwings. And the person who was sitting in the row next to me - he was saying, statistically it's impossible for this plane to go down - for us to be flying the same route and for it to go down. So it was obviously weighing on his mind. And I asked him about it, and he said that he did feel very - even though he was brave enough to get on the plane, he did feel a little bit worried or concerned and just very glum. And it was definitely a glum mood on that flight.

SIEGEL: Soraya, tell us about the airline that was involved in today's crash - Germanwings.

NELSON: It's the budget subsidiary of Lufthansa, and it's trying to compete with Ryanair in other low-cost areas in certain European cities. And this was the first time that a Germanwings flight had crashed since the airline was founded in 2002. They fly mostly these Airbuses. They have about 78 aircraft flying to 130 destinations. And what's interesting is that this particular airplane that went down did, in fact, have some technical repairs done to it yesterday morning. Apparently there was a problem with the nose gear landing door, and that was repaired according to the airliner. This was a Lufthansa spokesperson that we spoke to. And the plane, in fact, did fly yesterday, several times before the ill-fated flight today.

SIEGEL: Now, a few minutes ago we heard Eleanor Beardsley report that there were 16 schoolchildren aboard this flight and all from the same town in Germany. What are local authorities there saying?

NELSON: Well, the mood in that town - I mean this is a small town that's about 36,000 people and it's at the edge of Germany's rust belt. And they're - everybody is very shaken-up there. I mean, there were 16 children from one school and two other teachers. And that school is going to be open tomorrow for other students to come and basically meet and do - meet with grief counselors to sort of talk it out because this has really shaken up that small community, particularly the students at that school.

SIEGEL: That's NPR's Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson reporting from Dusseldorf in Germany. That's where a Germanwings flight was headed this morning after departing Barcelona. The Airbus A-320 crashed in the French Alps, and all 150 people aboard are presumed dead. Thank you, Soraya.

NELSON: You're welcome, Robert. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.