JAKARTA - At least 44 people are feared dead after a Russian Sukhoi Superjet 100 went missing Wednesday in bad weather in a mountainous region in West Java, Indonesia. Search and rescue teams have been deployed, but as of mid-evening, the aircraft has not been located.
The jet took off from Jakarta’s Halim Airport, shortly after 2 p.m. and was expected to return from its destination on the coast in less than an hour.
But the plane dropped an altitude 1,200 meters near Mount Salak and lost contact with air traffic control at 3.30 p.m. local time.
The people are on board included Indonesian airline and aviation executives, eight Russian crew members and five local journalists.
No contact has been made with those on board since Wednesday afternoon, said Hadiansya Lubis, a spokesman for Trans TV. Lubis said one TransTV journalist and one cameraperson were on the plane. He said he spoke to the two employees before they boarded the plane, but has been unable to make contact with them since.
Wednesday’s flight was the second of two demonstration flights and those on board were all invited guests.
At a media conference held Wednesday evening, head of the National Search and Rescue Agency, Marshal Daryatmo, outlined the planned rescue efforts. Daryatmo said rescue teams from Russia and Indonesia will be employed on foot around the area where the aircraft first lost contact with air traffic control.
If the plane is not located overnight, he said, three helicopters will be used to search for the aircraft on Thursday morning. Daryatmo was unable to confirm the fate of those on board.
Tatang Kurniada, the head of PT Trimaga Rekatama, the Indonesian agent of Sukhoi, also attended the news conference. He said the company will pay insurance to all of the victims.
The Sukhoi Superjet 100 is a new passenger plane built by Russia in a move to boost its civil aviation industry. Russia has high hopes for its Superjet, which it believes will become an influential player in the global aviation market.
Russia’s Aeroflot and Armenia’s Armavia are the only two airlines with the Sukhoi Superjet 100 in their fleets, so far. The aircraft made its first commercial flight last year.
Two Indonesian airlines are reported to have placed orders for the Superjets.
Wednesday’s demonstration flight was part of a road show in Asia to promote the Sukhoi Superjet. The plane has already toured through Kazakhstan, Pakistan and Burma, and was expected to continue to Laos and Vietnam.