Germanwings says jet plunged for eight minutes

A man walks past a screen displaying news on the crash of a Germanwings plane on March 24, 2015 at the airport in Duesseldorf, western Germany, where the crashed Germanwings airplane was due to land (AFP Photo/Sascha Schuermann)

Cologne (Germany) (AFP) - The Airbus A320 jet which crashed in the French Alps Tuesday had only just reached a cruising altitude of 38,000 feet before it descended rapidly for eight minutes, the low-cost carrier Germanwings said.

The pilot had "more than 10 years of experience" and some 6,000 flying hours under his belt and the jet had undergone a thorough check in the summer of 2013, Germanwings executive Thomas Winkelmann told a news conference.