Two killed as Airbus crashes into sea

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An Airbus A320 passenger plane crashed off southern France yesterday during a maintenance flight, killing at least two of the seven people on board. French authorities said the Air New Zealand plane plunged into the Mediterranean sea 20km east of the city of Perpignan, near the border with Spain, at around 4.45pm.

The local government office said two bodies had been recovered.

The aircraft was being operated by charter airline XL Airways, based in Frankfurt, Germany.

Asger Schubert, a spokesman for the charter firm, said the company had been leasing the aircraft from Air New Zealand since 2006, and was preparing to hand it back.