Wreck found of Russia’s new Superjet after it ‘vanished’ on Indonesia demo flight
Search and rescue teams found the wreckage a Russian-made passenger plane on a mountain Thursday after it disappeared during a demonstration flight in western Indonesia.
The conditions of the 48 people on board are not known.
Helicopters had resumed a search halted earlier because of bad weather. They saw the wreckage along a cliff on the mist-shrouded mountain, Major Ali Umri Lubis, of Atang Sanjaya Air base, told Metro TV.
Scroll down to see the Superjet when it was unveiled
Remnants: A view of the wreckage of the Russian Sukhoi Superjet 100 aircraft in Mount Salak, West Java province, as seen from an Indonesia Airforce Super Puma helicopter on May 10
Tragic: A Russian Sukhio Superjet 100, like this one pictured, has crashed along a cliff in Indonesia, but the conditions of the 48 people on board is still unknown
‘The helicopter just informed us that they spotted the wreckage about 10 minutes ago,’ Lubis said. ‘It was at about 5,000 feet. The condition of the wreckage is still unclear.’
The Sukhoi Superjet-100, Russia’s first new passenger jet since the fall of the Soviet Union two decades ago, left Halim Perdanakusuma Airport in Jakarta on Wednesday afternoon for what was supposed to be the second demonstration flight of the day. Potential buyers and journalists were on board.
The jet dropped off the radar 21 minutes later, immediately after the crew asked air traffic control for permission to drop from 10,000 feet to 6,000 feet, said Daryatmo, chief of the national search and rescue agency.
They didn’t explain the change of course, he said. Drizzle was falling at the time, but it was not stormy and there was no obvious signs of trouble.
Mission: Search and rescue teams were scouring the slopes of a dormant volcano in western Indonesia early Thursday for signs of the wreckage
Mobilizing: Indonesian soldiers cook food at Taman Nasional Halimun Salak in Sukabumi, West Java, Indonesia on Thursday morning on a break during the search
More than 800 people, including soldiers and police, were taking part in the search and rescue operation.
Though weather was clear Thursday, they were battling rugged and often steep terrain.
The Superjet – developed by the civil aircraft division of Sukhoi with the co-operation with Western partners – was widely considered the country’s chance to regain a foothold in the international passenger plane market.
Its ‘Welcome Asia!’ tour, which also included stops in Pakistan, Myanmar and Kazakhstan, was intended to drum up support.
Sunaryo from PT. Trimarga Rekatama, the company that helped organize Wednesday’s event, said 48 people were on board.
Despair: Relatives of passengers on the missing Sukhoi Superjet 100 pictured crying at Jakarta Airport
Worry: Relatives of passengers look at the list of who was on board the missing flight
Among them were eight Russians, all from Sukhoi companies, none of them diplomats, he said, correcting reports earlier by search and rescue officials.
The passengers included one American, a consultant with PT. Sriwijaya Airline, and a Frenchman with aircraft engine-maker Snecma, he said.
The Superjet – a 75- to 95-seat plane – was being touted as a challenger to similar-sized jets from Canada’s Bombardier Inc. and Brazil’s Embraer SA.
It made its inaugural commercial flight last year.
Indonesian officials initially speculated there were two possibilities surrounding the fate of the aircraft – that it had crashed or had been hijaked.
A military source in Indonesia said it was apparent that the jet had ‘fallen from the sky’ after it suddenly vanished from radar screens at an altitude of 6,200 feet over a mountainous area.
Airport officials in Jakarta said it was possible the aircraft had used up all its fuel by the time it was due to return to the airport. There has been no response from the jet or from anyone on board.
Mystery: The jet, like the one pictured here, had begun its descent towards Jakarta airport after its demonstration flight when it disappeared
The jet, which arrived in Indonesia on Wednesday, was on its fourth destination after visiting Burma, Pakistan and Kazakhstan. It was due to continue its demonstration flights in Laos and Vietnam.
The Russian plane is described as giving the ‘perfect ride’ for passengers, with four-abreast seat configuration that results in a true business class, providing every passenger with an equal level of comfort.
A website detailing the technical side of the aircraft describes its leading-edge technology which are said to be the core ingredient of the jet.
The technology results in a modern, economically, efficient and globally marketable aircraft.
The website adds: ‘SSJ100 is easy and safe to pilot. The cockpit design features a ‘passive’ side stick and ‘active’ engine control levers.
‘The Human Centred Design concept perfectly arranges the control levers and on-board equipment. SSJ100 can be landed by one pilot only.
‘Dark and Quiet Cockpit offers precise, convenient and reliable piloting of Sukhoi Superjet 100.’
The aircraft was on a promotional tour dubbed the ‘Asian Roadshow’ which was aimed at lifting Russia’s hopes of emerging from its gloomy history of crashes involving ageing Soviet-era aircraft.
Indonesia’s regional carrier PT Sky Aviation has already agreed to buy 12 of the jets, with deliveries to begin this year – but the apparent crash of the Superjet is certain to put a hold on the contract.