At least 2 dead as Airbus with 7 on board crashes off French coast

An Airbus A320 passenger plane crashed off France's southern coast during a maintenance flight Thursday, killing at least two of seven people on board, authorities said. The airplane had undergone checks at the EAS Industries aircraft maintenance center in the French city of Perpignan, near the border with Spain. It was being leased by Germany charter airline XL Airways and was due to return to service for Air New Zealand next month, officials from those companies said. The jet plunged into the Mediterranean as it was approaching the Perpignan airport, from which it had taken off on a circular flight an hour earlier, France's civil aviation accident investigation bureau said. A team of French and German investigators, as well as civil aviation officials and Airbus experts, were heading to the crash site about 20 kilometers (12.5 miles) off the coast, it said. Two bodies were recovered at sea, the local government said, without identifying the victims.