A PLANE designed to be Russia’s flagship new passenger jet on the international market went missing on Wednesday with 50 people on board during a demonstration flight for potential buyers in Indonesia.
Contact was lost with the Sukhoi Superjet 100 about 20 minutes after take-off in Jakarta at 1435 local time. It disappeared from radar screens 40 miles from the city after requesting permission to descend from 10,000ft to 6,000ft.
Sergey Dolya, a blogger who had joined the tour but did not fly, wrote on Twitter that the plane had gone missing near Mount Salak, a 7,254ft volcano in west Java.
The Superjet was on the fourth stop of a six-stage Asian sales tour, having already visited Burma, Pakistan and Kazakhstan. Indonesian authorities said there were 50 people on board - eight Russians, two Italians, a French citizen, an American and 38 Indonesians.
Authorities in Jakarta said they could not rule out a hijack. Helicopters and search and rescue teams were dispatched to the region, south of Jakarta, but were being hampered by bad weather.
“It’s a mountainous area and that’s complicating the search,” said Mr Dolya.
If the plane has met a disaster it will be a terrible blow for Russian aviation, which is already reeling after a series of crashes insde the country in the last two years.
The Superjet-100, a regional jet for 75 to 95 passengers, is designed to compete with planes built by Brazil’s Embraer and Canada’s Bombardier. Its first commercial flight was completed last year in Armenia.
It is the only Russian civil aircraft in production in significant numbers and is made by United Aircraft Corporation, a conglomerate created by President Vladimir Putin in 2006 to unite state and privately owned producers. UAC is supposed to be a “national champion” which advances the interests of the country.
About 240 Superjet 100s have been ordered worldwide but only a handful are so far in use, in Russia and Armenia.
The jet on display in Jakarta had already completed one demonstration flight there on Wednesday.