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Airbus A320 popular with airlines

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The Germanwings plane that crashed in France is an Airbus A320.

The plane can hold up to 180 passengers, and it has been reported that there were at least 148 people on the flight that crashed near Digne in south-east France.

The last A320 to crash was AirAsia Flight QZ8501, which was flying from Surabaya to Singapore in December. All 162 people on board died.

It is a single-aisle aircraft, popular for short and medium-haul flights. It comes from the world's best-selling single-aisle aircraft family which includes the A318, A319, A320 and A321 models.

On its website, Airbus reports that an A320 family aircraft takes off or lands every 2.5 seconds of every day.

It is used by many airlines including low-cost carriers such as easyJet. British Airways operates 120 Airbus A320s.

The planes are produced in Toulouse, France, Hamburg, Germany, and Tianjin, China. Airbus says A320 aircraft fly to some of the world's most challenging airports including Himalayan airfields in China, India and Bhutan.

Four days ago, Airbus celebrated the delivery of its 9,000th aircraft at a ceremony in Hamburg. As of February last year, Airbus was producing 42 aircraft per month.

There are currently 6,191 A320 aircraft in operation across the world, according to Airbus.

The A320 was the first to have a fly-by-wire system which replaced manual controls with an electronic interface.

The pilot uses a sidestick to input commands into a computer. The system is seen as safe, and also energy-efficient as it saves on weight. Airbus first installed fly-by-wire systems in the 1980s.