Wreckage of New Russian Jet Is Found

By Andrew E Kramer; Nicola Clark | International Herald Tribune, May 11, 2012 | Go to article overview

Wreckage of New Russian Jet Is Found


Andrew E Kramer; Nicola Clark, International Herald Tribune


There were no signs of survivors among the 50 people aboard the jet in Indonesia. The fate of the demonstration Superjet was a crushing blow to a Russian aerospace industry eager for revival.

The wreckage of a demonstration airplane for a Russian-made passenger jet that vanished during a 50-minute flight over Indonesia was found Thursday on the side of a mountain volcano shrouded in mist.

There were no signs of survivors among the 50 people -- including crew members, journalists and airline representatives -- aboard the plane, the Sukhoi Superjet 100, a spokesman for the Indonesian Search and Rescue National Agency told The Associated Press.

In a televised address on Thursday, the Indonesian president, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, said investigators had been dispatched to the site of the crash.

"We don't know what has happened, so rescue efforts for survivors are the priority," he said.

Search and rescue personnel who reached the scene on the steep slopes of Mount Salak on the island of Java on Thursday afternoon discovered several bodies, The A.P. reported. The fate of the jet, the first new model to be produced in Russia since the end of the Soviet Union, was a crushing blow to a national aerospace industry eager for revival.

The Superjet took off from Halim Perdanakusuma Airport in the Indonesian capital of Jakarta on Wednesday afternoon for its second demonstration flight of the day. It disappeared from radar screens and lost contact with ground controllers about 20 minutes later after requesting permission to descend to 1,800 meters from 3,000 meters, or about 6,000 feet from 10,000 feet, over the mountainous terrain of West Java.

It was not clear why the Russian pilot and copilot asked to descend or if they received approval. Communication between the pilots and air traffic control is being reviewed, The A.P. reported, but the tapes will not be made public immediately.

A resident near Mount Salak, named Juanda, said he heard the sound of a rumbling engine on Wednesday and saw a plane that seemed to be veering to one side. "Salak Mountain was not visible because of a lot of dark fog," he told local media.

The mountain frequently experiences bad weather and heavy fog.

The conditions prevented search parties from locating the plane on Wednesday. When the weather cleared on Thursday, search helicopters spotted the wreckage on the side of a cliff about 1,500 meters up Mount Salak, Maj. Ali Umri Lubis of the Indonesian Air Force told MetroTV.

The Superjet carried much of Russia's hope for reinvigorating an industry with a storied history of accomplishment. Its loss will deepen the malaise in an industry whose safety problems, breakdowns and lethal crashes have made it hard to sell planes outside the former Soviet Union, Iran, Cuba and parts of Africa.

It also casts a pall over a week of celebrations of Vladimir V. Putin's third inauguration as president. The loss occurred just as Russia's leaders were overseeing the lavish yearly display of military might to commemorate Victory Day, the anniversary of the defeat of Nazi Germany.

The Superjet 100 was produced by the government-controlled Sukhoi company, which is far better known for its fighter planes. Senior officials from Russia's trade ministry and aviation safety agency and Sukhoi's top managers left Moscow for Indonesia on Wednesday afternoon, the company announced.

"They have to clear this up very, very fast in terms of causes," said Richard Aboulafia, an aerospace analyst at the Teal Group consultancy in Fairfax, Virginia. …

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