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Russian plane goes missing in Indonesia

A Sukhoi Superjet 100 with 50 people aboard disappears during a promotional flight for prospective buyers. Search yields no clues so far.

May 09, 2012|By Sergei L. Loiko, Los Angeles Times
  • A relative of a passenger aboard the missing Russian jet waits at Halim Perdanakusuma Airport in Jakarta, Indonesia.
A relative of a passenger aboard the missing Russian jet waits at Halim Perdanakusuma… (Mast Irham / European Pressphoto…)

MOSCOW — A new Russian passenger plane with 50 people aboard went missing Wednesday during a demonstration flight over Indonesia, officials said.

The Sukhoi Superjet 100, on a South Asian promotional tour, disappeared from radar screens 20 minutes into its second flight from Jakarta. The crew last spoke to ground control while over Mt. Halimun Salak National Park in West Java province, the Rossiya 24 television network reported.

"Before communication was lost with the plane, there was no information about the malfunction of the systems," said Vladimir Prisyazhnyuk, president of Moscow-based Sukhoi Civil Aircraft Co. "The plane has conducted about 500 flights with the overall flight time over 800 hours [and] has passed all kinds of necessary preparation."

A search by Indonesian helicopters found no sign of the aircraft before the effort was halted for the night because of dense clouds and heavy rain.

Those on board the plane included eight Russian crew members and 42 representatives of prospective buyers from at least four countries, Rossiya 24 said.

The jet is the first plane produced by a civilian company spun off from the Russian defense firm whose combat jets make up the bulk of the Russian air force. Built with the assistance of French, Italian and American companies, it was designed and certified to meet current Western standards. It has room for 95 passengers.

"It is supposed to be the best Russian plane of its class and should be an exclusively reliable machine," Igor Korotchenko, a defense industry expert and editor in chief of National Defense magazine, said in an interview.

Prisyazhnyuk said the flight commander was the chief pilot of the company and had taken part in the entire cycle of testing for the plane.

The firm has already struck almost $3.5 billion in deals with companies in Southeast Asia and Mexico, the RIA Novosti agency reported.

Russian aviation specialists were on the way to Indonesia to take part in the investigation.

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