Saturday 16 December 2017

Flying to their deaths: Pictures of last moments of Russian plane crash emerge

Passengers pictured on the doomed jet just before take-off
Passengers pictured on the doomed jet just before take-off
Sukhoi's chief civil test pilot Alexander Yablontsev (L) and co-pilot Alexander Kochetkov (R) pose for a picture with flight attendants at an airport in the Indonesian capital Jakarta

Ian MacKinnon

THESE pictures were the last taken of the fateful Russian flagship passenger jet that went missing 50 minutes into its take-off from Jakarta.

Alexander Yablontsev, the chief test pilot and Alexander Kochetkov, his co-pilot pose with relaxed-looking flight attendants ahead of a landmark test flight.

The wreckage of the Sukhoi Superjet-100, with 50 people on board, was discovered on Thursday after it crashed 20 minutes after take-off into a jungle-covered dormant volcano.

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.

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