28 Nov 2008

Air NZ Airbus in fatal crash

7:54 am on 28 November 2008

Air New Zealand confirms that one of its Airbus A320 aircraft on lease to a European based company has crashed in the Mediterranean.

One person is dead, six are missing.

Chief executive Rob Fyfe says the aircraft, which was being

operated by the leasee, was due to return to service with Air New

Zealand next month.

A spokesman for the German charter airline XL says the aircraft had been leased from Air New Zealand in 2006 and had been returned to the Aurbus factory prior being handed back to Air New Zealand.

XL spokesman Asger Schubert says two XL crew and some Air New Zealand crew were on board at the time of the crash.

Mr Schubert says the airliner was in Air New Zealand colours and its cabin had been returned to the configuration required by Air New Zealand.

Regional officials in the Pyrenees-Orientales prefecture report the plane was a training flight.

A civilian vessel saw the crash take place off the southwestern coast of France while the plane was coming into land near Perpignan at about 5pm on Thursday.

A Maritime official told CNN that floating debris has been located. The official said the test flight took off from Perpignan in southern France.

A surveillance plane, two rescue helicopters and five ships are at scene 3.5 nautical miles (2.5km) from shore.

Erebus anniversary

28 November is the 29th anniversary of Air New Zealand's biggest disaster, when Flight TE901 crashed into Mt Erebus while on a scenic trip over Antarctica.

All 257 people on board died.