Wreckage of Russian jet found on slope

Posted: May 11, 2012

MOSCOW - Wreckage from a Russian passenger plane that disappeared over west Java in Indonesia was found early Thursday morning on the western slope of Mount Salak around the 5,000-foot level, Russian television news reported.

No survivors were found among the 45 people on board, including eight Russian crew members and 37 passengers from Indonesia, the United States, France and Italy. Indonesian paratroops descended on the site from helicopters and found bodies in what was left of the plane, Moscow radio news reported. The remains will be taken to Indonesian clinics for DNA testing, the report said.

The Sukhoi Superjet 100 disappeared from radar Wednesday afternoon about 20 minutes into its second demonstration flight of the day, part of a promotional tour of Southeast Asia for the new plane.

The cause of the crash is unknown. The plane had an experienced crew led by the chief test pilot of the production company, officials said.

"The plane conducted about 500 flights with overall flight time of over 800 hours, and passed all kinds of necessary preparation," Vladimir Prisyazhnyuk, president of Sukhoi Civil Aircraft, said in televised remarks.

Russian aviation officials and some experts refer to the S-100 as the pride and hope of Russian aviation. It is the first civilian plane produced by the civilian subsidiary of the Russian defense industry's famed Sukhoi corporation, whose combat jets make up the bulk of the Russian air force fleet and sell well abroad.

This year alone, Sukhoi Civil Aircraft has signed contracts to supply three S-100s to Laos, three to Indonesia and four to Mexico, with the market capacity until 2017 estimated at over 6,000 planes, RIA Novosti said.

"It is a principally new quality plane, and it is capable of taking Russian civil aviation to a new level," Igor Korotchenko, editor-in chief of the National Defense monthly journal, said in a phone interview. "I can't believe in a technical fault or a human error in connection with the accident."

At least one expert said the crash raised a troubling possibility. The radio altitude meter that was supposed to warn of a potential collision with the ground may have failed to function properly when the plane approached Mount Salak, said Alexander Akimenkov, a former test pilot and currently senior member of a Russian think tank.

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