Here is all the latest news as it happens on the crash of the Air New Zealand owned Airbus plane in France. Hit refresh for the latest updates
18.55pm: The Civil Aviation Authority has paid tribute to colleague Jeremy Cook who died in the Airbus crash this morning.
In a statement released this evening the CAA said: "Jeremy is a popular engineer, respected and liked by all in the aviation industry. An aviation enthusiast, he has had a long career dedicated to enhancing aviation safety standards, and this accident has affected all within the CAA and the aviation industry."
The statement continued: "Cook joined the Civil Aviation Authority as an Airworthiness Inspector in April 2005. A Licensed Maintenance Engineer with an extensive background in aircraft maintenance, his career includes time with Air Niugini in Papua New Guinea, Ansett New Zealand, and with the Christchurch Engine Centre. In his role at the CAA he processes the entry of aircraft into the New Zealand civil aviation system, assessing applications for the issue of, or changes to, aircraft airworthiness certificates. Jeremy is a valued member of the CAA's Aircraft Certification Unit and is very widely respected in his field."
17.35pm: Prime Minister John Key has spoken out on the tragedy, offering "any and all assistance required in the immediate aftermath of this tragedy".
"On behalf of all New Zealanders I would like to express my sincere condolences to the friends, families and colleagues of the five New Zealanders now feared dead in the crash," John Key said.
4.49pm: The search for the two missing NZers is continuing throughout the night. Officials say their were no distress calls or communication of any sort from the crew before the plane went down near Perpignan.
Air NZ CEO Rob Fyfe held another press conference at 3pm.
He said one of the families will travel to the scene while the others were still to make a decision.
He said Air New Zealand would "spare no expense' to meet whatever the families wanted.
Witness reports suggested the aircraft was low in the sky when the accident happened, he said.
At a briefing for Air NZ staff at their Auckland headquarters this afternoon there were tears and people expressed great concern at what had happened.
Mr Fyfe, who earlier said he was hopeful of there being survivors, added: "We have conveyed to the families that while we hold out hope and we will keep hoping, the search and rescue teams in France are not hopeful of finding any survivors."
The search by naval ships is continuing overnight French time though aerial searches have been temporarily halted.
Conditions are difficult with 30knot winds and rain and the sea temperature is only about 13C.
A senior investigator from new Zealand's Transport Accident Investigation Commission (TAIC) is joining the official French-led investigation.
Deputy Chief Investigator of Accidents Ken Matthews, an aviation specialist, is expected to join the investigation in France over the weekend.
New Zealand-based TAIC staff will also be supporting the French investigation by helping with any evidence gathering required in New Zealand.
Air New Zealand has named three of the four of its staff who are missing after the Perpignan crash.
Captain Brian Horrell, who is aged 52 years and lives in Auckland.
Murray White, who is an engineer aged 37 years and lives in Auckland.
Michael Gyles, who is an engineer aged 49 years and lives in Christchurch.
The name of the fourth person will be released later today once all next of kin have been notified, the airline said.
The Engineering, Printing and Manufacturing Union has offered its condolences to the New Zealand families who lost loved ones in the Air New Zealand Airbus 320 crash.
The tragedy may have claimed the lives of five New Zealanders, including a pilot, three engineers and a civil aviation inspector.
The EPMU has sent messages of condolence this morning to Air New Zealand, the Aviation & Marine Engineers Association, the Airline Pilots Association and the Civil Aviation Authority.
EPMU national secretary Andrew Little said: "Our thoughts are with all who have lost loved ones in this terrible tragedy."
Airbus team on way to the scene to take part in the investigation into what caused the crash.
XL airways has issued a statement in which it said it leased the plane in July 2006 and had maintained the aircraft itself. Representatives are on their way to Perpignan and it has been in contact with its pilots' families, the company said.
Air NZ CEO Rob Fyfe is leaving for Perpignan this evening with any family members of the missing staff who want to travel.
"I've spoken with the Prime Minister John Key who has offered us the full support of the Government and any of the resources we want to draw on over the next few days as we try to establish exactly what has happened," he said.
The search for the remaining missing people was due to have been called off about now and will resume in the morning, French media said.
Prime Minister John Key has phoned Air New Zealand and offered the Government's support as they handle the fall out of the crash.
Speaking to reporters at Air New Zealand's Auckland headquarters, Mr Fyfe has given further details of the tragoc acceptance flight, which was a handover from German company XL Airways which had leased the Airbus A320.
He said the flight, flown by XL German pilots, had left Perpignan and had flown for two hours as part of the test flight.
There was no indication yet of any Mayday calls or distress alerts to ground crew.
It was returning to Perpignan when the plane crashed into the sea.
Support teams from Air New Zealand are currently with the families of the missing New Zealanders from the crashed Airbus in France.
Air New Zealand CEO Rob Fyfe said he had not yet spoken to the families, though he will later today as more details come through on the rescue efforts.
He will fly to Perpignan this evening and has offered places to any family members who want to go there.
Air New Zealand deputy CEO Norm Thompson will fly to France on the first available flight, at midday.
Air New Zealand CEO Rob Fyfe has not given up hope that there could be survivors among the five New Zealanders feared dead in the Airbus crash off the coast of France.
"I'm hopeful there might still be survivors," he told a press conference just moments ago (10.30am NZT).
Mr Fyfe said that rescue teams had found debris and pieces of the aircraft, which crashed into the Mediterranean near Perpignan, floating on the surface of the water which could indicate survivors may yet be in the water.
He said Air New Zealand had been told officially that one body had been recovered from the crash site.
Air New Zealand has also given details of the staff it says were on board the flight, which was a test run for the Air New Zealand-owned Airbus to be handed back from its lease to German budget airline, XL Airline.
Mr Fyfe said the Air New Zealand staff on board were a senior pilot, based in Auckland, two engineers based in Christchurch and an engineer from Auckland.
A minehunter is being sent to the Airbus crash scene to search for the aircraft's blackbox on Friday morning, local newspaper L'Independant reported.
The French transport minister Dominique Bussereau will also visit the scene to speak to rescuers, police, the French civil aviation authority, the federal prosecutor and EAS. He confirmed an investigation into the cause of the crash had already begun.
A spokesman for Prime Minister John Key said he would hold a press conference early this afternoon in Wellington to talk about the crash.
"This is obviously a tragic situation for the families of the people killed and also for the airline. We are in touch with Air New Zealand and the Civil Aviation Authority."
More details of the site of the crash have emerged from witnesses in France.
The aircraft is believed to be 45m deep in the sea.
Some wreckage is floating on the surface, but the pieces were "very difficult to find because of the big waves and the dark", a French journalist has told Radio New Zealand.
A surveillance plane, two rescue helicopters and five ships scouring the seas around the crash site about 3km from the shore.
About 20 specialist frogmen are taking part in the operation.
A prosecutor's assistant for Perpignan, the nearest town to the crash site, said there was 'no hope of finding survivors". The search will be called off at 11.30pm local time (11.30am NZT) and resume in the morning, TF1 said.
A French journalist has told Radio New Zealand about the search for bodies in the Mediterranean after an Air New Zealand owned Airbus crashed, with possibly five New Zealanders on board.
He said the search for bodies was continuing in the dark despite strong wind and rain.
He said there was no hope of survivors.
"It's not really clear on what happened...the plane was flying for one hour and a half and suddenly fell down to the sea," he told Radio New Zealand.
"The was no explosion, it was flying (at) 300m and suddenly fell down into the sea, but no explosion."
Air New Zealand officials are preparing to hold a press conference in Auckland at 10.30am to update on progress of the search at the crash scene.
The plane crash may been witnessed by a nearby boat which saw it crash into the ocean, say various agencies out of France.
Maritime affairs officer Nicolas Renaud told BFM television French authorities had been alerted to the accident by the skipper of a sailing boat who said he saw the plane go down.
"The plane appears to be in several pieces," he said.
Debris from the plane crash, in which five New Zealanders may have died,is spread over hundreds of metres from the scene of the crash, the mayor's office in Canet-en-Roussillon said.
The Government has just released a statement on the crash.
Transport Minister Steven Joyce said the Government is getting regular updates, and seeking briefings from officials, in the wake of the A320 Airbus crash in France, near the border with Spain.
"The Government is getting briefings from Air New Zealand and the Civil Aviation Authority.
"Obviously the New Zealand Government has grave concerns and is being updated on developments."
Mr Joyce said it is premature at this stage to comment on what shape any investigation might take.
"Our thoughts right now are with the families, friends, and colleagues of those who were on board."
Local newspaper L'Independant said about ten boats had gone to help and debris from the plane's wreckage could be seen.
One witness who watched the accident happen from the coast told the paper the plane "made an attempt to climb but fell back down again immediately".
"I saw an enormous splash of water then, a few seconds later, I heard the noise. It was terrifying."
One of the Civil Aviation Authority's Wellington staff is thought to be among the five missing in the crash of the Air New Zealand-owned plane leased to a German airline.
"We believe it could be one of ours'," spokesman Bill Sommer told the New Zealand Press Agency.
"We're waiting for confirmation, we haven't gone past the search and rescue stage. We need confirmation."
The certification engineer was on the trip as part of the process by which aircraft and handed over from the European operator, to Air New Zealand.
The mood at Air New Zealand and CAA headquarters in Wellington is said to be sombre this morning, as staff waited for news from France. It is believed that five New Zealanders could be dead - four from Air New Zealand and one from the Civil Aviation Authority.
A spokesperson for the maritime department in Toulon has told Le Monde newspaper of the crash: "There are no survivors."
The plane that crashed was owned by Air New Zealand but leased to a German firm, XL Airways.
Reuters news agency reported that an XL Airways spokesman said: "At this point we do not know exactly what happened. At first we heard the plane had managed an emergency landing on water but then the coast guard said the plane had broken apart."
The Reuters news agency quotes Airbus as saying that the aircraft, delivered in July 2005, had accumulated approximately 7000 flight hours in some 2800 flight cycles. Around 1,960 A320 aircraft are in service with 155 operators around the world.
A member of the local government in Roussillon told France Info: "The plane, while coming into land at Canet-en-Roussillon, had started to turn and went straight into the sea."
Air New Zealand has just confirmed that five New Zealanders may be dead after an Airbus A320 operated by XL Airways of Germany was lost in the Mediterranean today.
One Air New Zealand pilot, three engineers and a Civil Aviation Authority inspector were among the seven people on board.
The aircraft was owned by Air New Zealand and had been on lease to XL Airways for the past two years.
Air New Zealand chief executive Rob Fyfe said the aircraft was being flown by XL Airways to Frankfurt where it was due to be handed back to Air New Zealand for a ferry flight back to New Zealand.
"We have been notified that four Air New Zealand employees may have been on board the aircraft as passengers on this ferry flight to Frankfurt," he said at a hastily arranged press conference this morning.
"Naturally, this is an extremely difficult time for us all and the full resources of the airline are being put into investigating what may have happened and providing support to our people and their families," he said.
Details of the crash are starting to emerge.
It has been confirmed that the aircraft, wearing Air New Zealand livery, was on a test flight and took off from the southern French city of Perpignan about 5.30am (New Zealand time).
It crashed into the Mediterranean Sea about 20km east of Perpignan.
Several boats and aircraft were looking for the other six people on board the aircraft although reports indicated the wreckage had been found.
The crash comes on a historically black day for New Zealand. It is 29 years to the day that an Air New Zealand DC10 crashed into Mt Erebus.
All 257 passengers and crew died when the aircraft slammed into the side of the Antarctic mountain as it flew low on a sightseeing flight.
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