No mayday from crashed airbus

An aviation enthusiast in France who monitored radio traffic at the time the Air New Zealand Airbus crash killed seven people said shortly afterwards on a website that the incident sent shivers up his spine.

The plane - registered in New Zealand as ZK-OJL, but flying for Germany's XL Airways as D-AXLA - contacted air traffic control at 4.45pm and was directed to descend to "flight level 120" (12,000 feet or 3650m altitude) while a Ryanair plane was on the standard terminal approach.

The listener - listed as Phillippe/AIB1017 on an aviation enthusiasts' website, PPRune.org, which promotes itself as a bulletin board for professional pilots to exchange information - said a woman air controller cleared the Airbus 360 to descend to 4000 feet to a circuit east of the airport and extending several kilometres out to sea. The air pressure at sea level was given as 1016 millibars.

"The pilot read (it) back and this is the last time we heard the pilot," Phillippe said, according to a translation of his comments. "Not a single mayday, nothing."

Then the pilot of a nearby PA28 Piper Warrior shouted over the radio: "an aircraft crashing, an aircraft crashing".

That plane, with the callsign Ulysses 34, began turning to the crash scene as a security helicopter took off from Perpignan, nearly 10km away.

At the scene, the helicopter pilot announced: "no visual on the aircraft, large white patch in the water". He said there was debris over more than 1km.

"I hope that there will be survivors, but given the cold and the water temperature ...." Phillippe wrote.

A copy of the posting was made on crash-aerien.com.

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