There is no evidence of any survivors from among seven people on board the Airbus A320 aircraft, belonging to Air New Zealand, which crashed off the coast of France during a pre-delivery flight.

Two bodies are said to have been retrieved and Perpignan's assistant prosecutor is being cited as saying there is "no hope" of finding anyone alive.

Air New Zealand chief executive Rob Fyfe believes four of those on board the aircraft were employees of the carrier.

"Naturally this is an extremely difficult time for us all and I can assure that 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 says.

Germany's local XL Airways division had been operating the flight ahead of returning the A320 to ANZ following a two-year lease.

A spokeswoman for the French coast guard Gendarmerie Maritime says the precise crash site is unclear, but that the organisation believes it to be up to 5km from the coast, east of Perpignan.

She adds that the jet, which came down at about 17:00, is lying 20-30m below the surface of the water.

XL 445
 © French Frogs Aviation Pictures

Airbus has confirmed the identity of the aircraft, which had serial number 2500 and was registered D-AXLA during its term with XL. The three-year old jet is equipped with International Aero Engines V2500 powerplants.

It had undergone maintenance in Perpignan, apparently with A320 servicing specialist EAS Industries, ahead of being redelivered to ANZ in Frankfurt.

Airbus says the aircraft had accumulated 7,000 flight hours over some 2,800 cycles. Meteorological data from Perpignan Rivesaltes Airport at the time of the accident, shortly before sunset, suggests good visibility and no significant weather in the vicinity.

Source: Air Transport Intelligence news