France opens black box, hoping to unlock jet crash mystery

Before you go, we thought you'd like these...
Search for Second Black Box Continues at Crash Site

SEYNE-LES-ALPES, France (AP) -- French investigators cracked open the mangled black box of a German jet on Wednesday, hoping the cockpit recordings inside would help them unlock the mystery of what caused the plane to drop unexpectedly and smash into a rugged Alpine mountain, killing all 150 on board.

The orange cockpit voice recorder - dented, twisted and scarred by the impact - is considered the key to understanding why the Germanwings A320 lost radio contact with air traffic controllers over the southern French Alps during a routine flight Tuesday from Barcelona to Duesseldorf before crashing. French officials said terrorism appeared unlikely, and Germany's top security official said Wednesday there was no evidence of foul play.

103 PHOTOS
Germanwings plane crash - crash site specifically
See Gallery
France opens black box, hoping to unlock jet crash mystery
FILE - In this March 26, 2015 file photo, rescue workers work on debris of the Germanwings jet at the crash site near Seyne-les-Alpes, France. The co-pilot of Germanwings Flight 4525 tried a controlled descent on the previous flight that morning to Barcelona before the plane crashed into a mountainside in March on its way back to Germany, French air accident investigators said in a new report released Wednesday May, 6, 2015. (AP Photo/Laurent Cipriani, File)
People load remains of the Germanwings flight crash victims in a Lufthansa cargo plane on June 9, 2015 at the Marseille-Provence airport in Marignane, southern France. Lufthansa confirmed that a plane would arrive from Marseille in Duesseldorf on June 9 with 30 coffins of victims on board, and that their handover would take place the following day. 150 people died on March 24 when a Germanwings flight was deliberately crashed into the French Alps . AFP PHOTO /ANNE-CHRISTINE POUJOULAT (Photo credit should read ANNE-CHRISTINE POUJOULAT/AFP/Getty Images)
Coffins of the victims of the Germanwings aircraft crash arrive to load aboard a Lufthansa plane to Duesseldorf, at Marseille airport, southeastern France, Tuesday, June 9, 2015. After months of waiting, families of the 150 people killed when a Germanwings plane smashed into the French Alps in March will finally start burying their loved ones as the airline's parent company begins sending home victims' remains. Lufthansa prepared Tuesday to ferry coffins with remains of 44 victims by cargo plane from Marseille, France, to Duesseldorf, Germany, where Germanwings flight 9525 from Barcelona was supposed to land March 24. Instead, authorities say, the co-pilot purposely slammed the plane into a mountainside. (AP Photo/Claude Paris)
A cargo aircraft, top, with remains of several people who died in the Germanwings plane crash in France lands at the airport in Dusseldorf, Germany, Tuesday, June 9, 2015. 150 people died in the plane crash on March 24. (AP Photo/Michael Probst)
Coffins of the victims of the Germanwings aircraft that crashed in the French Alps are loaded in a Lufthansa plane to transported in Duesseldorf, Germany, at Marseille airport southeastern France, Tuesday, June 9, 2015. After months of waiting, families of the 150 people killed when a Germanwings plane smashed into the French Alps in March will finally start burying their loved ones as the airline's parent company begins sending home victims' remains. Lufthansa prepared Tuesday to ferry coffins with remains of 44 victims by cargo plane from Marseille, France, to Duesseldorf, Germany, where Germanwings flight 9525 from Barcelona was supposed to land March 24. Instead, authorities say, the co-pilot purposely slammed the plane into a mountainside. (AP Photo/Lionel Cironneau)
In this photo provided Friday, April 3, 2015 by the French Interior Ministry, French emergency rescue services work among debris of the Germanwings passenger jet at the crash site near Seyne-les-Alpes, France. The co-pilot of the doomed Germanwings flight repeatedly sped up the plane as he used the automatic pilot to descend the A320 into the Alps, the French air accident investigation agency said Friday. (AP Photo/Yves Malenfer, Ministere de l'Interieur)
In this photo provided Monday, April 13, 2015 by the French Interior Ministry, debris of the Germanwings passenger jet are gathered near the crash site in Seyne-les-Alpes, France. The foreign ministers of Spain, France and Germany attended a wreath-laying ceremony Monday at Barcelona's airport in memory of the 150 victims of the Germanwings plane crash last month in the French Alps. (Yves Malenfer/French Interior Ministry via AP)
In this photo provided Monday, April 13, 2015 by the French Interior Ministry, French emergency rescue services collect debris of the Germanwings passenger jet at the crash site near Seyne-les-Alpes, France. The foreign ministers of Spain, France and Germany have attended a wreath-laying ceremony Monday at Barcelona's airport in memory of the 150 victims of the Germanwings plane crash last month in the French Alps. (Yves Malenfer/French Interior Ministry via AP)
In this photo provided Monday, April 13, 2015 by the French Interior Ministry, a rescue worker stands among bags filled with debris of the Germanwings passenger jet, gathered near the crash site in Seyne-les-Alpes, France. The foreign ministers of Spain, France and Germany have attended a wreath-laying ceremony Monday at Barcelona's airport in memory of the 150 victims of the Germanwings plane crash last month in the French Alps. (Yves Malenfer/French Interior Ministry via AP)
In this photo provided Monday, April 13, 2015 by the French Interior Ministry, a helicopter carries bags loaded with debris of the Germanwings passenger jet gathered near the crash site in Seyne-les-Alpes, France. The foreign ministers of Spain, France and Germany have attended a wreath-laying ceremony Monday at Barcelona's airport in memory of the 150 victims of the Germanwings plane crash last month in the French Alps. (Yves Malenfer/French Interior Ministry via AP)
In this photo provided Monday, April 13, 2015 by the French Interior Ministry, debris of the Germanwings passenger jet are gathered near the crash site in Seyne-les-Alpes, France. The foreign ministers of Spain, France and Germany attended a wreath-laying ceremony Monday at Barcelona's airport in memory of the 150 victims of the Germanwings plane crash last month in the French Alps. (Yves Malenfer/French Interior Ministry via AP)
A screen grab taken from an AFP TV video on March 24, 2015 shows debris of the Germanwings Airbus A320 at the crash site in the French Alps above the southeastern town of Seyne. The plane, which had taken off from Barcelona in Spain and was headed for Dusseldorf in Germany, crashed earlier in the day with 150 people onboard. AFP PHOTO /DENIS BOIS /GRIPMEDIA / AFP TV (Photo credit should read DENIS BOIS/AFP/Getty Images)
Family members of people involved in the crash of Germanwings jetliner on Tuesday in the French Alps leave after a gathering in Le Vernet, France Thursday, March 26, 2015. Commenting after listening to the plane’s black box voice data recorder, Marseille prosecutor Brice Robin said Thursday that the crash was a deliberate act by the co-pilot of the passenger jet. (AP Photo/Christophe Ena)
A rescue worker is lifted into an helicopter at the crash site near Seyne-les-Alpes, France, Thursday, March 26, 2015. The co-pilot of the Germanwings jet barricaded himself in the cockpit and ìintentionallyî rammed the plane full speed into the French Alps, ignoring the captainís frantic pounding on the cockpit door and the screams of terror from passengers, a prosecutor said Thursday. In a split second, he killed all 150 people aboard the plane. (AP Photo/Laurent Cipriani)
French gendarmes hold German and Spanish flags as family members of people involved in Germanwings jetliner that crashed on Tuesday in the French Alps attend a gathering in Le Vernet, France Thursday, March 26, 2015. A French prosecutor said Thursday that the co-pilot of the Germanwings plane that crashed in the French Alps this week appeared to want to "destroy the plane." . Tuesday's crash in France killed 144 passengers and the crew of six. (AP Photo/Christophe Ena)
Marseille prosecutor Brice Robin, center, with Gen. David Galtier, right,holds a press conference in Marseille, southern France, Thursday March 26, 2015. Robin said the co-pilot was alone at the controls of the Germanwings flight that slammed into an Alpine mountainside and "intentionally" sent the plane into the doomed descent, killing 150 people. (AP Photo)
Marseille, France - March 24: A piece of debris of Germanwings Flight 4U9525 with german flag on it is seen at the crash site in the French Alps on March 24, 2015 near Barcelonette, France. (Photo by Thomas Koehler/Photothek via Getty Images)
A rescue worker climbs past debris at the plane crash site near Seyne-les-Alpes, France, Wednesday, March 25, 2015, after a Germanwings jetliner crashed Tuesday in the French Alps. French investigators cracked open the badly damaged black box of a German jetliner on Wednesday and sealed off the rugged Alpine crash site where 150 people died when their plane on a flight from Barcelona, Spain to Duesseldorf, Germany, slammed into a mountain. (AP Photo/Laurent Cipriani)
ALTERNATE CROP TO CIP111 - Rescue workers work on debris at the plane crash site near Seyne-les-Alpes, France, Wednesday, March 25, 2015, after a Germanwings jetliner crashed Tuesday in the French Alps. French investigators cracked open the badly damaged black box of a German jetliner on Wednesday and sealed off the rugged Alpine crash site where 150 people died when their plane on a flight from Barcelona, Spain to Duesseldorf, Germany, slammed into a mountain. (AP Photo/Laurent Cipriani)
Lufthansa and Germanwings employees observe a minute of silence to remember the plane crash victims at the airport in Duesseldorf, Thursday March 26, 2015. On Tuesday a Germanwings aircraft crashed in the French alps on the way from Barcelona to Duesseldorf killing 150 people. (AP Photo Frank Augstein)
A screengrab taken from an AFP TV video on March 24, 2015 shows the debris from a Germanwings Airbus A320 at the crash site in the French Alps above the southeastern town of Seyne. The plane, which had taken off from Barcelona in Spain and was headed for Dusseldorf in Germany, crashed earlier in the day with 150 people onboard. AFP PHOTO /DENIS BOIS /GRIPMEDIA / AFP TV (Photo credit should read DENIS BOIS/AFP/Getty Images)
Buses loaded with relatives of victims are escorted after their arrival at Marseille airport, southern France, Thursday March 26, 2015. The Germanwings Airbus A320, on a flight from Barcelona, Spain, to Duesseldorf, Germany, inexplicably began to descend from cruising altitude after losing radio contact with ground control and slammed into a remote mountainside in the French Alps on Tuesday, killing all 150 people on board. (AP Photo)
The house where Germanwings A320 plane crash victim Yvonne Selke lived in Nokesville, Va., Wednesday, March 25, 2015. Three Americans were presumed dead in the plane crash in the southern French Alps, including a U.S. government contractor and her daughter, the State Department said Wednesday. The mother was identified as Yvonne Selke of Nokesville, Virginia, an employee for 23 years at Booz Allen Hamilton Inc. in Washington, and her grown daughter, Emily Selke, a recent graduate of Drexel University in Philadelphia. The U.S. government did not identify the third American it said was on the plane. (AP Photo/Cliff Owen)
LE VERNET, FRANCE- MARCH 26: French police close the road the road that leads up to the crash site as families of the victims are expected to start arriving in Le Vernet and Seylnes-les Alpes, on March 26, 2015 in Le Vernet, France. Germanwings flight 4U9525 from Barcelona to Duesseldorf crashed in Southern French Alps, killing all 150 passengers and crew. (Photo by Patrick Aventurier/Getty Images)
Flags of the airline company Lufthansa, left, and its subsidiary Germanwings fly at half-staff at the Leipzig/Halle airport in Schkeuditz, Germany, Wednesday March 25 , 2015, the day after a Germanwings aircraft , carrying 150 people, crashed in France on the way from Barcelona, Spain, to Duesseldorf, Germany. (AP Photo/dpa,Peter Endig)
French President Francois Hollande, left, German Chancellor Angela Merke, second left, and Spanish Prime Minister, Mariano Rajoy, speak with rescue workers in Seyne-les-Alpes, France, Wednesday, March 25, 2015, after a Germanwings jetliner crashed Tuesday in the French Alps. French investigators cracked open the badly damaged black box of a German jetliner on Wednesday and sealed off the rugged Alpine crash site where 150 people died when their plane on a flight from Barcelona, Spain to Duesseldorf slammed into a mountain. (AP Photo/Christophe Ena, Pool)
German Chancellor Angela Merkel, center, French President Francois Hollande, left, and Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy pay respect to victims at a makeshift morgue for those who died in a Germanwings plane crash in the French Alps, in Seyne-les-Alpes, France Wednesday, March 25, 2015. French investigators cracked open the badly damaged black box of a German jetliner on Wednesday and sealed off the rugged Alpine crash site where 150 people died when their plane on a flight from Barcelona, Spain to Duesseldorf slammed into a mountain. (AP Photo/Christophe Ena, Pool)
Debris of the crashed Germanwings passenger jet is scattered on the mountain side near Seyne les Alpes, French Alps, Tuesday, March 24, 2015. The Germanwings passenger jet carrying at least 150 people crashed Tuesday in a snowy, remote section of the French Alps, sounding like an avalanche as it scattered pulverized debris across the mountain. (AP Photo/Claude Paris)
SEYNE, FRANCE - MARCH 25: French military personel walk up the mountainside on March 25, 2015 near Seyne, France. Germanwings flight 4U9525 from Barcelona to Duesseldorf has crashed in Southern French Alps. All 150 passengers and crew are thought to have died. (Photo by Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images)
A rescuers points to the plane crash site onto a map, on March 24, 2015 at the Rescue Command Center set up in the southeastern French town of Seyne, near the site where a German Airbus A320 of the low-cost carrier Germanwings crashed, killing all 150 people on board. The jet had taken off from Barcelona in Spain and was headed for Duesseldorf in Germany. AFP PHOTO / BORIS HORVAT (Photo credit should read BORIS HORVAT/AFP/Getty Images)
Debris of the crashed Germanwings passenger jet is scattered on the mountain side near Seyne les Alpes, French Alps, Tuesday, March 24, 2015. The Germanwings passenger jet carrying at least 150 people crashed Tuesday in a snowy, remote section of the French Alps, sounding like an avalanche as it scattered pulverized debris across the mountain. (AP Photo/Claude Paris)
A woman travels in a public transport as flags fly at half staff for the victims of the Germanwings passenger jet, in Madrid, Spain, Wednesday, March 25, 2015. The plane carrying 150 people crashed Tuesday in the French Alps region as it traveled from Barcelona to Duesseldorf in Germany. (AP Photo/Andres Kudacki)
A student who knew some of the German students involved in a crashed plane, reacts during a minute of silence in front of the council building in Llinars del Valles, near Barcelona, Spain, Wednesday, March 25, 2015. Sixteen 10th-grade students from a town in western Germany and two of their teachers had just spent a week on an exchange near Barcelona and were less than an hour from landing when their Germanwings flight crashed in southern France. Officials confirmed Tuesday they were among the 150 people who died in the crash, including what are believed to be 67 Germans, many Spaniards and one person from the Netherlands. (AP Photo/Emilio Morenatti)
A student lights a candle in front of the Joseph-Koenig Gymnasium in Haltern, western Germany Tuesday, March 24, 2015. A Germanwings plane from Barcelona crashed on its way to Duesseldorf over the French alps, 16 school children and 2 teachers from Haltern were among the 150 people on board. (AP Photo/Martin Meissner)
French Red Cross staff wait to greet the families of victims of the Germanwings Airbus A320 at the convention centre of Digne-les-Bains on March 25, 2015, a day after the plane crashed in the French Alps. Investigators scoured the pulverised debris of the German airliner for bodies and clues to its mysterious eight-minute descent and crash in the French Alps that killed all 150 aboard. AFP PHOTO / PASCAL GUYOT (Photo credit should read PASCAL GUYOT/AFP/Getty Images)
A rescue helicopter flies over debris of the Germanwings passenger jet, scattered on the mountain side, near Seyne les Alpes, French Alps, Tuesday, March 24, 2015. A Germanwings passenger jet carrying at least 150 people crashed Tuesday in a snowy, remote section of the French Alps, sounding like an avalanche as it scattered pulverized debris across the mountain. (AP Photo/Claude Paris)
LA SEYNE LES ALPES, FRANCE- MARCH 24: Gendarmerie and French mountain rescue teams arrive near the site of the Germanwings plane crash in the French Alps on March 24, 2015 in La Seyne les Alpes, France. A Germanwings Airbus A320 airliner with 150 people on board has crashed in the French Alps. (Photo by Patrick Aventurier/Getty Images)
LA SEYNE LES ALPES, FRANCE- MARCH 24: Gendarmerie and French mountain rescue teams arrive near the site of the Germanwings plane crash near the French Alps on March 24, 2015 in La Seyne les Alpes, France. A Germanwings Airbus A320 airliner with 150 people on board has crashed in the French Alps. (Photo by Patrick Aventurier/Getty Images)
LA SEYNE LES ALPES, FRANCE- MARCH 24: Aerial view of crash site of Germanwings Flight 4U9525 in Seyne Les Alpes on March 24, 2015 in Seyne Les Alpes, France. German Foreign Minister Steinmeier visited the site of a Germanwings Airbus A320 airliner which crashed with 150 people on board in the French Alps. (Photo by Michael Gottschalk/Photothek via Getty Images)
LA SEYNE LES ALPES, FRANCE- MARCH 24: French Ecology Minister Segolene Royal,Spanish Transport Minister Ana Pastor Julian and German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier arrive near the site of the Germanwings plane crash near the French Alps on March 24, 2015 in La Seyne les Alpes, France. A Germanwings Airbus A320 airliner with 150 people on board has crashed in the French Alps. (Photo by Patrick Aventurier/Getty Images)
LA SEYNE LES ALPES, FRANCE- MARCH 24: Gendarmerie and French mountain rescue teams arrive near the site of the Germanwings plane crash in the French Alps on March 24, 2015 in La Seyne les Alpes, France. A Germanwings Airbus A320 airliner with 150 people on board has crashed in the French Alps. (Photo by Patrick Aventurier/Getty Images)
LA SEYNE LES ALPES, FRANCE- MARCH 24: Gendarmerie and French mountain rescue teams arrive near the site of the Germanwings plane crash near the French Alps on March 24, 2015 in La Seyne les Alpes, France. A Germanwings Airbus A320 airliner with 150 people on board has crashed in the French Alps. (Photo by Patrick Aventurier/Getty Images)
LA SEYNE LES ALPES, FRANCE- MARCH 24: Gendarmerie and French mountain rescue teams arrive near the site of the Germanwings plane crash near the French Alps on March 24, 2015 in La Seyne les Alpes, France. A Germanwings Airbus A320 airliner with 150 people on board has crashed in the French Alps. (Photo by Patrick Aventurier/Getty Images)
LA SEYNE LES ALPES, FRANCE- MARCH 24: Gendarmerie and French mountain rescue teams arrive near the site of the Germanwings plane crash near the French Alps on March 24, 2015 in La Seyne les Alpes, France. A Germanwings Airbus A320 airliner with 150 people on board has crashed in the French Alps. (Photo by Patrick Aventurier/Getty Images)
LA SEYNE LES ALPES, FRANCE- MARCH 24: Gendarmerie and French mountain rescue teams arrive near the site of the Germanwings plane crash near the French Alps on March 24, 2015 in La Seyne les Alpes, France. A Germanwings Airbus A320 airliner with 150 people on board has crashed in the French Alps. (Photo by Patrick Aventurier/Getty Images)
LA SEYNE LES ALPES, FRANCE- MARCH 24: French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve arrives near the site of the Germanwings plane crash near the French Alps on March 24, 2015 in La Seyne les Alpes, France. A Germanwings Airbus A320 airliner with 150 people on board has crashed in the French Alps. (Photo by Patrick Aventurier/Getty Images)
LA SEYNE LES ALPES, FRANCE- MARCH 24: Gendarmerie and French mountain rescue teams arrive near the site of the Germanwings plane crash near the French Alps on March 24, 2015 in La Seyne les Alpes, France. A Germanwings Airbus A320 airliner with 150 people on board has crashed in the French Alps. (Photo by Patrick Aventurier/Getty Images)
LA SEYNE LES ALPES, FRANCE- MARCH 24: TV lighting is seen near the site of the Germanwings plane crash near the French Alps on March 24, 2015 in La Seyne les Alpes, France. A Germanwings Airbus A320 airliner with 150 people on board has crashed in the French Alps. (Photo by Patrick Aventurier/Getty Images)
A student lights a candle in front of the Joseph-Koenig Gymnasium in Haltern, western Germany Tuesday, March 24, 2015. A Germanwings plane from Barcelona crashed on its way to Duesseldorf over the French alps, 16 school children and 2 teachers from Haltern were among the 150 people on board. (AP Photo/Martin Meissner)
Crying people arrive at Barcelona airport in Spain, Tuesday, March 24, 2015. A Germanwings passenger jet carrying 150 people crashed Tuesday in the French Alps region as it traveled from Barcelona to Duesseldorf in Germany. (AP Photo/Manu Fernandez)
Family members of people involved in a crashed plane comfort each other as they arrive at the Barcelona airport in Spain, Tuesday, March 24, 2015. A Germanwings passenger jet carrying more than 140 people crashed in the French Alps region as it traveled from Barcelona to Duesseldorf in Germany. (AP Photo/Emilio Morenatti)
Students stand in front of candles in front of the Joseph-Koenig Gymnasium in Haltern, western Germany Tuesday, March 24, 2015. A stunned German town mourned 16 students who went down aboard Germanwings flight on their way home Tuesday from a Spanish exchange, while the opera world grieved for two singers who were returning from performing in Barcelona. (AP Photo/Martin Meissner)
People light candles on a table tennis in front of the Joseph-Koenig Gymnasium in Haltern, western Germany Tuesday, March 24, 2015. A stunned German town mourned 16 students who went down aboard Germanwings flight on their way home Tuesday from a Spanish exchange, while the opera world grieved for two singers who were returning from performing in Barcelona. (AP Photo/Martin Meissner)
LA SEYNE LES ALPES, FRANCE- MARCH 24: Gendarmerie and French mountain rescue teams arrive near the site of the Germanwings plane crash near the French Alps on March 24, 2015 in La Seyne les Alpes, France. A Germanwings Airbus A320 airliner with 150 people on board has crashed in the French Alps. (Photo by Patrick Aventurier/Getty Images)
LA SEYNE LES ALPES, FRANCE- MARCH 24: Aerial view of crash site of Germanwings Flight 4U9525 in Seyne Les Alpes on March 24, 2015 in Seyne Les Alpes, France. German Foreign Minister Steinmeier visited the site of a Germanwings Airbus A320 airliner which crashed with 150 people on board in the French Alps. (Photo by Michael Gottschalk/Photothek via Getty Images)
A helicopter of the French civil security services flies near Seyne, south-eastern France, on March 24, 2015, near the site where a Germanwings Airbus A320 crashed in the French Alps. A German airliner crashed near a ski resort in the French Alps on March 24, killing all 150 people on board, in the worst plane disaster in mainland France in four decades.. AFP PHOTO / ANNE-CHRISTINE POUJOULAT (Photo credit should read ANNE-CHRISTINE POUJOULAT/AFP/Getty Images)
BARCELONA, SPAIN - MARCH 24: Relatives of passengers of Germanwings flight, arrive at Barcelona International Airport on March 24, 2015 in Barcelona, Spain after an Airbus A320 plane flown by low-budget airline Germanwings crashed in southern France. Nearly 150 people are feared dead including 144 passengers and six crew after the Airbus A320 crash. (Photo by Albert Llop/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
HALTERN AM SEE, GERMANY - MARCH 24: Students and well wishers gather in front of the Joseph-Koenig-Gymnasium secondary school in Haltern am See, Germany on March 24, 2015, from where some of the Germanwings plane crash victims came. Sixteen German teenagers and two teachers on a school exchange trip were assumed to be among the 150 dead in the crash of a passenger jet in the French Alps, officials said. The head of low-budget airline Germanwings said there were 144 passengers and six crew on the Airbus A320 that crashed in the French Alps en route to Duesseldorf from Barcelona. (Photo by Sascha Steinbach/Getty Images)
BARCELONA, SPAIN - MARCH 24: Relatives of passengers of Germanwings flight, arrive at Barcelona International Airport on March 24, 2015 in Barcelona, Spain after an Airbus A320 plane flown by low-budget airline Germanwings crashed in southern France. (Photo by Albert Llop/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
Debris of the Germanwings passenger jet is scattered on the mountain side near Seyne les Alpes, French Alps, Tuesday, March 24, 2015. A Germanwings passenger jet carrying at least 150 people crashed Tuesday in a snowy, remote section of the French Alps, sounding like an avalanche as it scattered pulverized debris across the mountain. (AP Photo/Claude Paris)
A recue helicopter flies over debris of the Germanwings passenger jet, scattered on the mountain side, near Seyne les Alpes, French Alps, Tuesday, March 24, 2015. A Germanwings passenger jet carrying at least 150 people crashed Tuesday in a snowy, remote section of the French Alps, sounding like an avalanche as it scattered pulverized debris across the mountain. (AP Photo/Claude Paris)
Debris of the Germanwings passenger jet is scattered on the mountain side near Seyne les Alpes, French Alps, Tuesday, March 24, 2015. A Germanwings passenger jet carrying at least 150 people crashed Tuesday in a snowy, remote section of the French Alps, sounding like an avalanche as it scattered pulverized debris across the mountain. (AP Photo/Claude Paris)
Debris of the Germanwings passenger jet is scattered on the mountainside near Seyne les Alpes, French Alps, Tuesday, March 24, 2015. A Germanwings passenger jet carrying at least 150 people crashed Tuesday in a snowy, remote section of the French Alps, sounding like an avalanche as it scattered pulverized debris across the mountain. (AP Photo/Claude Paris)
Flightradar data of flight D-AIPX operated by Germanwings. An Airbus A320 of the German airline Germanwings crashed Tuesday in Alpes-de-Haute-Provence, Southern France, on March 24, 2015, BFMTV reported, citing a local police source. The ill-fated passenger jet with some 142 passengers and six crew members aboard was flying from Barcelona to Duesseldorf when the tragedy occurred. Photo by ABACAPRESS.COM
French emergency services workers gather in Seyne, south-eastern France, on March 24, 2015, near the site where a Germanwings Airbus A320 crashed in the French Alps. A German airliner crashed near a ski resort in the French Alps on March 24, killing all 150 people on board, in the worst plane disaster in mainland France in four decades. AFP PHOTO / BORIS HORVAT (Photo credit should read BORIS HORVAT/AFP/Getty Images)
Thomas Winkelmann, chief executive officer of Germanwings, speaks during a news conference in Cologne, Germany, on Tuesday, March 24, 2015. Germanwings Flight 9525 operated by the low-cost subsidiary of Deutsche Lufthansa AG went down in the Digne region about an hour north of Marseille en route from Barcelona to Dusseldorf, Germany, according to German air-traffic control authorities and may have claimed the lives of all 154 people on board. Photographer: Jasper Juinen/Bloomberg via Getty Images
An Aerospatiale AS350 Ecureuil helicopter of the French National Gendarmerie is seen in Seyne, south-eastern France, on March 24, 2015, near the site where a Germanwings Airbus A320 crashed in the French Alps. A German airliner crashed near a ski resort in the French Alps on March 24, killing all 150 people on board, in the worst plane disaster in mainland France in four decades. AFP PHOTO / ANNE-CHRISTINE POUJOULAT (Photo credit should read ANNE-CHRISTINE POUJOULAT/AFP/Getty Images)
A helicopter of the French civil security services flies near Seyne, south-eastern France, on March 24, 2015, near the site where a Germanwings Airbus A320 crashed in the French Alps. A German airliner crashed near a ski resort in the French Alps on March 24, killing all 150 people on board, in the worst plane disaster in mainland France in four decades. AFP PHOTO / BORIS HORVAT (Photo credit should read BORIS HORVAT/AFP/Getty Images)
PARIS, FRANCE - MARCH 24: King Felipe of Spain (R) is watched by French president Francois Hollande (L) and Queen Letizia of Spain as he addresses media after a meeting at the Elysee presidential palace, on March 24, 2015 in Paris, France. King Felipe VI and Queen Letizia of Spain have decided to cut short their scheduled state visit to France after a Germanwings Airbus A320 plane crashed in the French Alps, as it travelled from Barcelona to Duesseldorf. (Photo by Chesnot/Getty Images)
Crying people arrive at the airport in Duesseldorf, Germany, Tuesday, March 24, 2015, after a Germanwings passenger jet carrying more than 140 people crashed in the French Alps region as it traveled from Barcelona to Duesseldorf. (AP Photo/Frank Augstein)
Rescue helicopters fly over the mountainside near Seyne-les-Alpes, French Alps, Tuesday, March 24, 2015. A Germanwings passenger jet carrying at least 150 people crashed Tuesday in a snowy, remote section of the French Alps, sounding like an avalanche as it scattered pulverized debris across the mountain. (AP Photo/Claude Paris)
French President Francois Hollande, left, welcomes Spain's King Felipe VI, center, and Queen Letizia of Spain, upon their arrival at the Elysee Palace, in Paris, France, Tuesday, March 24, 2015. Spain's King Felipe VI and Queen Letizia of Spain are on a scheduled two-days state visit in France. A Germanwings Airbus A320 plane crashed Tuesday morning in the French Alps as it traveled from Barcelona to Duesseldorf. (AP Photo/Francois Mori)
BARCELONA, SPAIN - MARCH 24: A relative (C) of passangers of the Germanwings plane crashed in French Alps arrives at the Terminal 2 of the Barcelona El Prat airport on March 24, 2015 in Barcelona, Spain. A Germanwings Airbus A320 airliner with 148 people on board has crashed in French Alps. (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)
BARCELONA, SPAIN- MARCH 24: Relatives of passangers of the Germanwings plane crashed in French Alps arrive escorted by police officer at Terminal 2 of Barcelona El Prat airport on March 24, 2015 in Barcelona, Spain. A Germanwings Airbus A320 airliner with 148 people on board has crashed in French Alps. (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)
Flightradar data of flight D-AIPX operated by Germanwings. An Airbus A320 of the German airline Germanwings crashed Tuesday in Alpes-de-Haute-Provence, Southern France, on March 24, 2015, BFMTV reported, citing a local police source. The ill-fated passenger jet with some 142 passengers and six crew members aboard was flying from Barcelona to Duesseldorf when the tragedy occurred. Photo by ABACAPRESS.COM
People waiting for flight 4U 9525 are led away by airport staff at the airport in Duesseldorf, Germany, Tuesday, March 24, 2015, after a Germanwings passenger jet carrying more than 140 people crashed in the French Alps region as it traveled from Barcelona to Duesseldorf. (AP Photo/Frank Augstein)
A man who appears to have waited for the missing flight 4U 9525 covers his face at the airport in Duesseldorf, Germany, Tuesday, March 24, 2015, after a Germanwings passenger jet carrying 148 people crashed in the French Alps region as it traveled from Barcelona to Duesseldorf. (AP Photo/Frank Augstein)
BARCELONA, SPAIN - MARCH 24: A relative (C) of passangers of the Germanwings plane crashed in French Alps arrives at the Terminal 2 of the Barcelona El Prat airport on March 24, 2015 in Barcelona, Spain. A Germanwings Airbus A320 airliner with 148 people on board has crashed in French Alps. (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)
Duesseldorf, GERMANY - MARCH 24: People arrive at a holding area for friends and relatives of passengers on Germanwings flight 4U9525 from Barcelona to Duesseldorf at Duesseldorf International Airport on March 24, 2015 in Duesseldorf, Germany. The German Airbus A320 has crashed in Southern French Alps. (Photo by Sascha Steinbach/Getty Images)
FILE - In this Oct. 16, 2014 an Airbus A 320 of the German airline Germanwings is parked at the airport in Cologne, Germany, as their pilots went on strike. French President Francois Hollande said no survivors are likely in the Alpine crash of a passenger jet carrying 148 people. The Germanwings passenger jet crashed Tuesday, March 24, 2015 in the French Alps region as it traveled from Barcelona to Duesseldorf, French officials. (AP Photo/Martin Meissner)
Flightradar data of flight D-AIPX operated by Germanwings. An Airbus A320 of the German airline Germanwings crashed Tuesday in Alpes-de-Haute-Provence, Southern France, on March 24, 2015, BFMTV reported, citing a local police source. The ill-fated passenger jet with some 142 passengers and six crew members aboard was flying from Barcelona to Duesseldorf when the tragedy occurred. Photo by ABACAPRESS.COM
The arrivals board shows flight 4U 9525 without a status at the airport in Duesseldorf, Germany, Tuesday, March 24, 2015, after a Germanwings passenger jet carrying 148 people crashed in the French Alps region as it traveled from Barcelona to Duesseldorf. (AP Photo/Frank Augstein)
A man who appears to have waited for the missing flight 4U 9525 reacts at the airport in Duesseldorf, Germany, Tuesday, March 24, 2015, after a Germanwings passenger jet carrying 148 people crashed in the French Alps region as it traveled from Barcelona to Duesseldorf. (AP Photo/Frank Augstein)
French President Francois Hollande, left, welcomes Spain's King Felipe VI, center, and Queen Letizia of Spain, upon their arrival at the Elysee Palace, in Paris, France, Tuesday, March 24, 2015. Spain's King Felipe VI and Queen Letizia of Spain are on a two-days state visit in France. A Germanwings Airbus A320 plane crashed Tuesday morning in the French Alps as it traveled from Barcelona to Duesseldorf. (AP Photo/Francois Mori)
Spain's King Felipe VI, centre, and Queen Letizia of Spain, walk on the red carpet to meet French President Francois Hollande upon their arrival at the Elysee Palace, in Paris, France, Tuesday, March 24, 2015. Spain's King Felipe VI and Queen Letizia of Spain are on a scheduled two-day state visit in France. A Germanwings Airbus A320 plane crashed Tuesday morning in the French Alps as it traveled from Barcelona to Duesseldorf. (AP Photo/Francois Mori)
An electronic board displays departures in terminal 2B at Barcelona's El Prat airport on March 24, 2015 after a Germanwings airliner crashed near a ski resort in the French Alps with all 148 people on board feared dead, officials said. The plane, belonged to Germanwings, a low-cost affiliate of German airline Lufthansa, was travelling from the Spanish coastal city of Barcelona to the German city of Duesseldorf after issuing a distress call at 10:47 am (0947 GMT), sources said. AFP PHOTO / LLUIS GENE (Photo credit should read LLUIS GENE/AFP/Getty Images)
Police officers guard a non-public area for people waiting for flight 4U 9525 at the airport in Duesseldorf, Germany, Tuesday, March 24, 2015, after a Germanwings passenger jet carrying more than 140 people crashed in the French Alps region as it traveled from Barcelona to Duesseldorf. (AP Photo/Frank Augstein)
Spain's King Felipe VI, center, and Queen Letizia of Spain, walk from their car to meet French President Francois Hollande upon their arrival at the Elysee Palace, in Paris, France, Tuesday, March 24, 2015. Spain's King Felipe VI and Queen Letizia of Spain are on a two-days state visit in France. A Germanwings Airbus A320 plane crashed Tuesday morning in the French Alps as it traveled from Barcelona to Duesseldorf. (AP Photo/Francois Mori)
An Airbus A320 of the German airline Germanwings crashed Tuesday in Alpes-de-Haute-Provence, Southern France, on March 24, 2015, BFMTV reported, citing a local police source. The ill-fated passenger jet with some 142 passengers and six crew members aboard was flying from Barcelona to Duesseldorf when the tragedy occurred. Photo by ABACAPRESS.COM
A red star on a topographical map marks the crash site of a Germanwings plane in the French Alps in Seyne Les Alpes, France, 24 March 2015. (Photo: PETER KNEFFEL/dpa)
A Swissport employee stands inside a booth in terminal 2B at Barcelona's El Prat airport on March 24, 2015 after a Germanwings airliner crashed near a ski resort in the French Alps with all 148 people on board feared dead, officials said. The plane, belonged to Germanwings, a low-cost affiliate of German airline Lufthansa, was travelling from the Spanish coastal city of Barcelona to the German city of Duesseldorf after issuing a distress call at 10:47 am (0947 GMT), sources said. AFP PHOTO / LLUIS GENE (Photo credit should read LLUIS GENE/AFP/Getty Images)
Airport staff walk to a non-public area where people waiting for the Germanwings flight from Barcelona have been brought at the airport in Duesseldorf, Germany, Tuesday, March 24, 2015, after a Germanwings passenger jet carrying 148 people crashed in the French Alps region as it traveled from Barcelona to Duesseldorf. (AP Photo/Frank Augstein)
Rescue workers and gendarme gather in Seyne-les-Alpes, French Alps, Tuesday, March 24, 2015, as search-and-rescue teams struggle to reach the remote crash site of Germanwings passenger plane. A Germanwings passenger jet carrying 150 people crashed Tuesday in the French Alps as it flew from Spain's Barcelona airport to Duesseldorf in Germany, authorities said.(AP Photo/Claude Paris)
Crying people arrive at Barcelona airport in Spain, Tuesday, March 24, 2015. A Germanwings passenger jet carrying 150 people crashed Tuesday in the French Alps region as it traveled from Barcelona to Duesseldorf in Germany. (AP Photo/Manu Fernandez)
BARCELONA, SPAIN - MARCH 24: Relatives of passangers of the Germanwings plane crashed in French Alps arrives at the Terminal 2 of the Barcelona El Prat airport on March 24, 2015 in Barcelona, Spain. Germanwings flight 4U9525 from Barcelona to Duesseldorf with 150 people on board has crashed in the French Alps.(Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)
BARCELONA, SPAIN- MARCH 24: Relatives of passangers of the Germanwings plane crashed in French Alps arrives at the Terminal 2 of the Barcelona El Prat airport on March 24, 2015 in Barcelona, Spain. Germanwings flight 4U9525 from Barcelona to Duesseldorf with 150 people on board has crashed in the French Alps.(Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)
HALTERN AM SEE, GERMANY - MARCH 24: Students and well wishers gather in front of the Joseph-Koenig-Gymnasium secondary school in Haltern am See, Germany on March 24, 2015, from where some of the Germanwings plane crash victims came. Sixteen German teenagers and two teachers on a school exchange trip were assumed to be among the 150 dead in the crash of a passenger jet in the French Alps, officials said. The head of low-budget airline Germanwings said there were 144 passengers and six crew on the Airbus A320 that crashed in the French Alps en route to Duesseldorf from Barcelona. (Photo by Sascha Steinbach/Getty Images)
HALTERN AM SEE, GERMANY - MARCH 24: Students and well wishers gather in front of the Joseph-Koenig-Gymnasium secondary school in Haltern am See, Germany on March 24, 2015, from where some of the Germanwings plane crash victims came. Sixteen German teenagers and two teachers on a school exchange trip were assumed to be among the 150 dead in the crash of a passenger jet in the French Alps, officials said. The head of low-budget airline Germanwings said there were 144 passengers and six crew on the Airbus A320 that crashed in the French Alps en route to Duesseldorf from Barcelona. (Photo by Sascha Steinbach/Getty Images)
Family member aircrash victims stand at Barcelona's El Prat airport on March 24, 2015 after a Germanwings airliner crashed near a ski resort in the French Alps with all 150 people on board feared dead, officials said. Tearful relatives of passengers of the German airliner that crashed in the French Alps Tuesday gathered grieving at Barcelona and Dusseldorf airports as officials announced none of the 150 people on board survived. AFP PHOTO / LLUIS GENE (Photo credit should read LLUIS GENE/AFP/Getty Images)
Students and well wishers gather in front of the Joseph-Koenig-Gymnasium secondary school in Haltern am See, western Germany on March 24, 2015, from where some of the Germanwings plane crash victims came. Sixteen German teenagers and two teachers on a school exchange trip were assumed to be among the 150 dead in the crash of a passenger jet in the French Alps, officials said. The head of low-budget airline Germanwings said there were 144 passengers and six crew on the Airbus A320 that crashed in the French Alps en route to Duesseldorf from Barcelona. AFP PHOTO / SASCHA SCHUERMANN (Photo credit should read SASCHA SCHUERMANN/AFP/Getty Images)
Young girls stand on March 24, 2015 in front of the Joseph-Koenig-Gymnasium secondary school in Haltern am See, western Germany, from where some of the Germanwings plane crash victims came. Sixteen German teenagers and two teachers on a school exchange trip were assumed to be among the 150 dead in the crash of a passenger jet in the French Alps, officials said. The head of low-budget airline Germanwings said there were 144 passengers and six crew on the Airbus A320 that crashed in the French Alps en route to Duesseldorf from Barcelona. AFP PHOTO / SASCHA SCHUERMANN ALTERNATIVE CROP (Photo credit should read SASCHA SCHUERMANN/AFP/Getty Images)
Lufthansa CEO Carsten Spohr addresses the media during a press conference near the Germanwings headquarters in Cologne, Germany, Thursday, March 26, 2015. 150 people died in a Germanwings plane crash in the French alps on the way from Barcelona to Duesseldorf on Tuesday. (AP Photo/Frank Augstein)
A mourning band is fixed at the town sign of Haltern am See, western Germany, where 18 passengers of the crashed Germanwings flight 4U-9525 came from on March 26, 2015. The crash of the budget airline Germanwings flight on March 24, 2015 in the French Alps, killed all 150 people aboard. The probe has focused on the co-pilot, after it was revealed the he initiated the fatal descent and refused to open the door to the pilot. AFP PHOTO / DPA / ROLF VENNENBERND GERMANY OUT (Photo credit should read ROLF VENNENBERND/AFP/Getty Images)
of
SEE ALL
BACK TO SLIDE
SHOW CAPTION +
HIDE CAPTION

Helicopters surveying the scattered debris lifted off at daybreak to eye the craggy ravine. Emergency crews, meanwhile, traveled slowly over the steep, rocky terrain to the remote high-altitude crash site through snow and rain.

The crash left pieces of wreckage "so small and shiny they appear like patches of snow on the mountainside," said Pierre-Henry Brandet, the Interior Ministry spokesman, after flying over the debris field.

French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve told RTL radio the "black box is damaged and must be reconstituted in the coming hours in order to be useable."

Investigators were zooming in on two key minutes Tuesday - 10:30-10:31 a.m. - said Segolene Royal, a top government minister whose portfolio includes transport. From then on, air traffic controllers were unable to make contact with the plane.

The voice recorder takes audio feeds from four microphones within the cockpit and records all the conversations between the pilots, air traffic controllers as well as any noises in the cockpit. Photos released by France's air accident investigation agency appeared to show the cylinder that holds the memory apparently intact.

The flight data recorder, which Cazeneuve said has not been retrieved yet, captures 25 hours' worth of information on the position and condition of almost every major part in a plane.

German Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere told reporters in Berlin on Wednesday that "according to the latest information there is no hard evidence that the crash was intentionally brought about by third parties." Royal and Cazeneuve also emphasized that terrorism is considered unlikely.

The plane, operated by Germanwings, a budget subsidiary of Lufthansa, was less than an hour from landing in Duesseldorf when it unexpectedly went into a rapid eight-minute descent. The pilots sent out no distress call, France's aviation authority said.

Lufthansa CEO Carsten Spohr, himself a pilot, said he found the crash of a plane piloted by two experienced captains "inexplicable."

Investigators retrieving data from the recorder will focus first "on the human voices, the conversations" followed by the cockpit sounds, French Transport Secretary Alain Vidalies told Europe 1 radio.

Deborah Hersman, president and CEO of the National Safety Council and a former chair of the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board, said generally the voice recorder data can be downloaded in a matter of hours. She told NBC's "Today" show the data will offer insight into "those critical minutes and seconds leading up to the crash."

"I'm absolutely confident that the investigators are going to figure out what happened," she said.

Bereaved families made their way to the southern French Alps, as did the leaders of France, Germany and Spain, since most of the passengers were German and Spanish.

French President Francois Hollande and German Chancellor Angela Merkel arrived by helicopters on a mountain meadow whipped by strong wind. Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy joined them at the scene in the French town of Seynes-les-Alpes.

Lufthansa said two charter flights to France will be made available for family members who want to get as close as they can to the crash site. Locals in Seyne-les-Alpes offered to host the bereaved families because of a shortage of rooms to rent.

Germanwings itself cancelled several flights Wednesday because some crews declared themselves unfit to fly after losing colleagues.

"The management completely understands this because we are a small family. Everyone knows everybody inside Germanwings, so it is a big shock for employees," said CEO Thomas Winkelmann.

He said the company had already contacted the families of 123 victims and was trying to reach relatives of the remaining 27. He said victims included 72 German citizens, 35 Spanish, two people each from Australia, Argentina, Iran, Venezuela and the U.S. and one person each from Britain, the Netherlands, Colombia, Mexico, Japan, Denmark, Belgium and Israel. Some could have dual nationalities.

They included two babies, two opera singers, an Australian mother and son vacationing together, and 16 German high school students and their two teachers returning from an exchange program in Spain.

"Nothing will be the way it was at our school anymore," said Ulrich Wessel, the principal of Joseph Koenig High School in the German town of Haltern.

"I was asked yesterday how many students there are at the high school in Haltern, and I said 1,283 without thinking - then had to say afterward, unfortunately, 16 fewer since yesterday. And I find that so terrible," he added.

In Spain, flags flew at half-staff on government buildings and a minute of silence was held in government offices across the country. Parliament canceled its Wednesday session.

Barcelona's Liceu opera house held two minutes of silence at noon to honor two German opera singers - Oleg Bryjak and Maria Radner - who took the flight after performing at the theater last weekend.

In an eerie coincidence, an Air France flight from Paris to Saigon crashed close to the same spot in the French Alps in 1953, killing all 42 people on board.

More to see:

Eerie Coincidence: Plane Crashed in '53 in Same Part of Alps

Read Full Story

People are Reading