Airbus A320 leased to German XL Airways for the past two years crashed into the Mediterranean Sea while on a test flight.
The seven people on board - four Air New Zealand pilots and engineers, a New Zealand Civil Aviation Authority official, and two XL Airways pilots - are presumed dead.
The aircraft was being tested in Perpignan, south-east France, prior to being returned to Air New Zealand and flown back to New Zealand later this week.
The aircraft was 4 years old and had accumulated approximately 7000 flight hours in some 2800 flight cycles. Air New Zealand began to introduce the A320 150 seater aircraft into its fleet in 2003. The airline operates the A320 on its Trans-Tasman and Pacific Island routes. There were 12 A320s in the airline's fleet at the end of August.
The crash occurred 29 years to the day that an Air New Zealand DC10 on a tourist flight crashed into Mt Erebus, in Antarctica, killing all 257 passengers and crew. That crash was the worst in the company's and New Zealand's history.