Plane on demonstration flight to court buyers; 47 perish
CIDAHU, Indonesia – Helicopters spotted the wreckage of a Russian-made passenger plane scattered on the green cliff of a mist-shrouded dormant Indonesian volcano today after the demonstration flight disappeared with 47 people on board. There was no sign of survivors.
Family members who spent the night at the airport broke down in tears on hearing the news.
“Rescuers on the helicopters could clearly see the wreckage located at the top of Mount Salak,” including the blue-and-white of the aircraft maker, said Gagah Prakoso, a spokesman for the Search and Rescue National Agency.
“There is no sign of any of the passengers,” he said. “We’re trying to move in closer to the wreckage now.”
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 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. It was drizzling at the time but not stormy, and there was no obvious signs of trouble.
Russia’s aerospace industry was badly undermined in the economic turmoil following the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union.
The Superjet – developed by the civil aircraft division of Sukhoi with the cooperation of 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.