Wednesday 20 September 2017

Wreckage of missing Russian passenger jet found

Friends and relatives wait for news at an airport in Jakarta while rescuers search for survivors of the crash near Mount Salak in Western Java province
Friends and relatives wait for news at an airport in Jakarta while rescuers search for survivors of the crash near Mount Salak in Western Java province

Ian MacKinnon

The wreckage of a Russian flagship passenger jet with 50 people on board that went missing during a test flight has been discovered after it crashed into a jungle-covered dormant volcano in Indonesia.

Helicopters scouring vegetation covered slopes discovered the blue and white wreckage of the Sukhoi Superjet-100, which crashed 20 minutes after take-off from Jakarta on a demonstration flight to drum up business.

Teams of rescuers who battled up the sheer slopes to reach the crash site found no signs of survivors and said that the bodies would have to be placed in nets and winched up to hovering helicopters.

Of the eight crew and 42 guests aboard the jet, most were journalists and potential buyers for the jet which is Russia’s first foray into the burgeoning small passenger jet market since the collapse of the Soviet Union.

The Superjet-100, with a passenger capacity of 68 to 103 depending on the configuration, was on the fourth stop of a six-nation Asian tour, and the second flight of the day, when it hit a near-vertical cliff section on 7,000ft Mount Salak, a long-dormant volcano.

Investigators are now examining taped conversations between the pilots and air-traffic control, particularly the pilot’s request to descend from 10,000ft to 6,000ft seconds before the plane disappeared from radar screens.

“The airplane crashed at the edge of Salak mountain,” said Indonesian president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono. “An investigation must be done immediately and thoroughly.” Aerial pictures from the crash scene revealed tiny sections of wreckage from the wings and fuselage scattered down an exposed stretch of cliff surrounded by the dense forest.

Indonesia’s search and rescue agency chief, Daryatmo, said: “From the pictures we’re seeing it looks like it was a total loss.” Sukhoi has already won 170 orders worldwide for its Superjet-100 and was aiming to sell 42 in Indonesia alone, competing against similar-sized offerings in the passenger jet market from Brazil’s Embraer and Canada’s Bombardier.

If the cause of the crash turns out ultimately to be a pilot or air-traffic control error, the effects on sales might not prove too disastrous. But a technical fault in the jet that has already suffered delays could be catastrophic for orders.

Editors Choice

Also in World News