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Thu, May 10, 2012

Rescuers Reach Site Where Sukhoi Superjet Went Down

Victims Founds In Remote, Rugged Terrain

Rescue teams found the wreckage of the Sukhoi Superjet that went missing in Indonesia Wednesday after radar contact was lost. All 45 aboard the aircraft are feared dead. Rescue agency spokesman Gagah Prakoso said "So far we haven't found any survivors, but we are still searching," as teams of soldiers, police and volunteers continued to troop up the slopes. Due to the remoteness of the accident site and the rugged terrain, helicopters will be used to remove bodies hoisted in nets. Evacuations have been postponed until Friday because of heavy mist.

CBS News reports that the Sukhoi Superjet was in Indonesia as part of a six-country tour of Asia intended to generate interest in the aircraft. The jet was carrying representatives from local airlines and journalists on a 50-minute demonstration flight. Twenty-one minutes after departing from the airfield the pilot asked ATC for permission to descend from 10,000 feet to 6,000 feet, giving no explanation. The aircraft disappeared from radar immediately afterwards. Prakoso said it was not clear why the crew asked for the course diversion, especially considering their proximity to a 7,000 foot volcano.

The Superjet has been widely considered Russia's chance to regain a foothold in the international passenger plane market. The country's aerospace industry was badly undermined in the economic turmoil following the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union. Tom Ballantyne, an aviation expert based in Sydney, Australia, opined "If it's a technical fault, then obviously that will be very serious for them. But if it's pilot error or the fault of air traffic control, it won't be quite so bad because they'll be able to say, 'Well, it's not the airplane'."

The Jakarta Post reports that all sales of the new Russian airliner in Indonesia have been suspended pending the outcome of an investigation. Four potential buyers had expressed strong interest in the airplane. The investigation will be conducted by Indonesia's Committee for Transportation Safety (KNKT) as well as representatives from Russia.

(Pictured: Sukhoi Superjet in Comlux livery)



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