Pilot: It's way too soon to tell what happened to the Germanwings flight

Germanwings AirbusREUTERS/Ina FassbenderGermanwings aircraft parked during a strike by pilots at Cologne airport in 2010.

It’s way too soon to tell what caused the Germanwings plane crash, and it might be years before we know what happened, according to pilot Patrick Smith.

Germanwings flight 4U9525 was flying from Barcelona, Spain to Dusseldorf, Germany on Tuesday when the aircraft experienced a sudden loss of altitude less than an hour into the flight and crashed in southern France. All 150 people on board the plane are thought to have died.

The plane reportedly dropped to a cruising altitude of just 5,000 feet from 38,000 feet in about 8 minutes, but other than that, we don’t yet have much information about what led up to the crash.

“Everyone wants to come up with some sort of possible cause, and there’s no way to do that. It could be one of a thousand things.” said Smith, an airline pilot and author of the book “Cockpit Confidential.”

The few indications we have so far as to what happened don’t point to an obvious explanation for the crash, Smith said.

“It takes a long time, sometimes years before we know for sure what happened,” he said.

Complicating the investigation is the terrain of the crash site — the plane went down in a mountainous, isolated region of the French alps, making it hard to reach.

The pilot of the plane had 10 years of experience of flying for Lufthansa, German officials said at a press conference. Officials said the plane had been last checked by technicians on Monday.

Overall, the Airbus A320 has a solid safety record, with only fatal 23 crashes in its service lift — not including Tuesday’s incident — according to Aviation Safety Net.

Weather conditions were reportedly good at the time of the crash.

“Maybe if a little bit more was known, you could steer the speculation in a particular direction but it’s so vague at this point,” Smith said. “It’s a strange one so far.”

The debris is reportedly spread over an area of five acres, officials said.

Gilbert Sauvan, president of the general council of the Alpes-de-Haute-Provence, told the Associated Press that “everything is pulverized.”

A witness described what he observed: “The noise I heard was long — like 8 seconds — as if the plane was going more slowly than a military plane speed. There was another long noise after about 30 seconds.”

Crews that flew in on helicopters are now on the ground at the scene.

An Airbus plane operated by Lufthansa's GermanwingsREUTERS/Jean-Paul PelissierA rescue helicopter from the French Securite Civile flies over the French Alps during a rescue operation after the crash of an Airbus A320, near Seyne-les-Alpes, March 24, 2015.

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