JAKARTA, Indonesia – A new Russian-made civilian plane carrying 50 people went missingin Indonesia while flying over mountains Wednesday during ademonstration flight for potential buyers and journalists,officials said. Search and rescue teams were heading to the area just south of thecapital, said Bambang Ervan, a spokesman for the Ministry ofTransportation. Bad weather, however, forced at least twohelicopters to turn back. The Sukhoi Superjet-100 took off from Jakarta's Halim PerdanakusumaAirport at 2:21 p.m. (0721 GMT). |
It dropped off the radar 21 minutes later near the Salak mountainrange, after the crew asked air traffic control for permission todescend from 10,000 feet to 6,000 feet (3,000 meters to 1,800meters). No explanation was given for the sudden change of course. Thoughdrizzling at the time, it was not stormy. "I saw a big plane passing just over my house," Juanda, a villagerwho lives near the 7,200-foot- (2,200-meter)- mountain, told thelocal station TVOne. "It was veering a bit to one side, the engine roaring," she said."It seemed to be heading toward Salak, but I didn't hear anexplosion or anything." Rear Marshal Daryatmo, chief of the national search and rescueagency, said several diplomats from the Russian Embassy, potentialbuyers from major Indonesian airlines and journalists were on boardwhat was supposed to be a 50-minute demonstration flight —the second of the day.
Together with the Russian crew, the plane was carrying 50 people,said Sunaryo, from PT Trimarga Rekatama, the company that wasresponsible for the guest list. Like many Indonesians, both Sunaryoand Daryatmo use only one name. Though the air search was called off by early evening, soldiers,police and members of the air force had joined the land-basedrescue efforts. They were expected to continue through the night,but the terrain was rough and difficult to navigate after darknessfell.
"Hopefully they'll be able to reach the location tonight," Daryatmosaid. Developed by the Russian aerospace company Sukhoi in co-operationwith Western partners, the plane is the first completely newairliner designed by Russia since the Soviet collapse. Russia has hoped that the short- to mid-range jet, which made itsmaiden run in 2008, would help it break into international marketsdominated by Boeing and Airbus. It was on the fourth stop of a six-nation "Welcome Asia!" road showafter having already been to Myanmar, Pakistan and Kazakhstan. Itwas supposed to head next to Laos and Vietnam.
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