A Russian built Sukhoi Superjet 100 passenger plane with at least 44 people aboard has gone missing on a demonstration flight in Indonesia, on 9th May, 2012 – and confirmed the next morning to have crashed into the side of the Mount Salak volcano.
The plane took off from east Jakarta’s Halim Perdanakusuma airport shortly before 14:00 local time (07:00 GMT) and was scheduled to fly an approx. 30 min circle from Jakarta as the second of two demonstration flights today, with 8 Russian and 36 other nationalities (two Italians, one American, one French, all the rest were Indonesian) on board. Those people are believed to be mostly airline employees (the potential buyers– representatives from Indonesia’s Batavia, Pelita, Air Aviastar, and Sriwijaya Air) invited by Sukhoi to this demo flight in the hope of buying the airplane which Sukhoi is trying to sell on the global market. Indonesia has been a potential breakout selling location due to the country’s aging fleet and growing demand for air travel. 8 SuperJets have been in operation with Aeroflot and Armenian Armavia for more than a year now with only minor incidents.
At 14:12 (21 minutes into the flight) it requested approval for descending from 10.000 ft to 6.000 ft from air traffic control. While starting the descent, the plane disappeared from radar screens near Bogor, a city in West Java province, near Mount Salak (7,200ft, 2,200m), a volcano south of Jakarta – a blogger with the Sukhoi delegation said. Juanda, a villager who lives near the mountain, told local TV: “I saw a big plane passing just over my house.” “It was veering a bit to one side, the engine roaring. It seemed to be heading toward Salak, but I didn’t hear an explosion or anything.” BBC reports that Jocean Bowler, an American running an organic farm on the slopes of the mountain, which is a popular tourist destination, said: “Salak’s a big mountain, I didn’t hear anything.“
Emergency services confirmed a Sukhoi plane was missing and two helicopters were dispatched to find the jet. The plane is believed to have had about four hours’ fuel aboard, the BBC’s Karishma Vaswani reports from Jakarta, but as darkness fell, the helicopter search was called off due to dusk and unpredictable weather, but rescuers continued looking for the plane on the ground, he said….
The latest reports suggest the mobile phones of at least two passengers are working, though nobody has picked up. “A call waiting tone can be heard, but nobody is answering,” the director of Angkasa Aviation magazine says, as cited by Detik.com. Two employees of Angkasa, Didi Yusuf and Dodi Aviantara, were reportedly onboard the missing plane. The aircraft is believed to be one of two company prototypes being used for sales and marketing promotion tours. The missing aircraft’s registration number is SN95004.
UPDATE: Thursday morning teams searching for the plane spotted debris from the Sukhoi Superjet 100 at a height of about 5,800 feet (1,800 meters) on the side of Mount Salak, around 1.5km (one mile) from the spot where the plane last made radio contact, and the Sukhoi logo had been identified amid the wreckage - said Daryatmo, head of the National Search and Rescue Agency. There was no sign of any passengers but rescuers were preparing to drop a team from a helicopter onto the ridge to search for survivors, a military official said. No bodies have been found at the scene, but human remains found will be taken to hospitals for DNA tests. Experts say that survival chances are very low given that the crash seem to have happened on the nearly vertical side of a very steep mountain cliff.
Russia’s Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev established a special commission to investigate the accident.
The Superjet, a mid-range airliner that can carry up to 100 people, is military plane-maker Sukhoi’s first commercial aviation plane. This particular Sukhoi Superjet 100 airplane arrived in Jakarta as part of a demonstration tour of six Asian countries. It had been to Myanmar, Pakistan and Kazakhstan, and was due to visit Laos and Vietnam after Indonesia, Russian RIA Novosti said.
The first completely new Russian Passenger Aircraft since the Cold War was created by a joint venture, majority-owned by Sukhoi, with Italy’s Finmeccanica and a number of other foreign and Russian firms also involved. 170 of the type has been ordered by airlines so far, with 8 delivered to Aeroflot and Armavia. It gained European Aviation Safety Agency certification in early February and Sukhoi was aiming to sell 42 such planes in Indonesia.