Plane's sudden descent took just 8 minutes

Within just two minutes of the plane reaching its cruising altitude, Germanwings flight 4U9525 began a sudden descent.

Eight minutes later, the plane had dropped from a height of 38,000 ft to 6,000 ft and contact with the plane was lost.

All 144 passengers on board, including two babies, are believed to have died in the crash. There were also six crew members onboard.

The plane, an Airbus A320, was bought 24 years ago and had last undergone a major inspection in 2013.

The captain has had 10 years of flying experience with Germanwings and its parent company, Lufthansa, and has clocked more than 6,000 hours of flight time.

It is not clear whether the plane issued a distress call as the budget airline said it had been receiving contradicting information from French air traffic controllers.

The plane had been heading from Spain to Germany and about half the passengers are Germans.

Source: BBC News, The Guardian