No survivors found after Russian plane crashes in Indonesia

MOUNT SALAK, Indonesia Fri May 11, 2012 12:43am IST

1 of 4. A view of the wreckage of the Russian Sukhoi Superjet 100 aircraft in Mount Salak, West Java province, as seen from an Indonesia Airforce Super Puma helicopter May 10, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/Handout/ Indonesian Air Force/Super Puma Helicopter/Major Levi

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MOUNT SALAK, Indonesia (Reuters) - A rescue team found bodies but no survivors on Thursday in the wreckage of a Russian passenger jet that crashed into a volcano in Indonesia during an exhibition flight with 45 people on board.

The Superjet 100 aircraft went missing on Wednesday about 40 miles (60 km) south of Jakarta.

Among the victims were Indonesian reporters and businessmen, eight Russians including embassy officials, pilots and technicians, two Italians, a French citizen and an American, the head of Sukhoi Civil Aircraft, Vladimir Prisyazhnyuk, said.

"We haven't found survivors," a spokesman for the search and rescue team, Gagah Prakoso, told Indonesia's Metro TV.

Radio contact with the aircraft was lost in the middle of Wednesday's promotional sales flight after it dropped to 6,000 ft (1,800 m) near Indonesia's dormant Mount Salak volcano.

A helicopter spotted debris on the side of the 7,254-ft (2,200-m) peak, sending rescue teams trekking across steep and heavily forested terrain to reach the site.

An aerial picture appeared to show that the plane had hit the top of a wall of rock. Small pieces of white debris could be seen scattered down an exposed stretch of cliff. The cause of the tragedy is not known.

Sukhoi, which had hoped to sell 42 of the planes to Indonesia, is part of the state-owned United Aircraft Corporation UNAC.MM, an umbrella corporation Russian leader Vladimir Putin created in 2006 to reorganise and revive the country's aircraft industry.

Shares in the state-owned company fell by as much as 7 percent on Thursday as markets reopened in Moscow after a three-day holiday, before recovering to stand down 2 percent.

Putin ordered Russian representatives to take part in the investigation into the crash.

AIRCRAFT FOR EXPORT

Moscow will hope the crash of the flagship aircraft will not reduce confidence in its civilian aircraft industry.

"Experts are saying that the plane has been working impeccably well and that possibly it was human error," Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin told reporters while travelling with Putin in Nizhny Tagil in Russia's Ural mountains.

He called the superjet a "reliable, competitive machine".

Sukhoi's chief civil test pilot Alexander Yablontsev and his co-pilot Alexander Kochetkov had been flying the plane, said a statement on the website Superjet International, the Italian-led venture responsible for marketing the plane to the West.

Yablontsev had accumulated 10,000 flight hours and commanded the Superjet on its maiden flight in 2008.

The aircraft crashed on the second of two demonstration flights from Halim Perdanakusuma airport, east of Jakarta.

Sukhoi, which has orders for 170 planes worldwide, plans to produce up to 1,000 Superjets, primarily for foreign markets.

Indonesia's Sky Aviation, which signed a commitment last August to buy 12 Sukhoi Superjet 100s, said it will not move ahead with the Sukhoi purchase before the results of the probe.

"Some of our staff were in the plane. We are waiting for the investigation by the authorities, whether it's human error or plane issues," said Sutito Zainudin, general manager marketing of PT Sky Aviation.

Built in a converted corner of a Sukhoi fighter factory in Siberia, the Superjet was unveiled in 2007 as part of a drive to restore pride in Russia's aviation industry, but it ran into a series of development delays.

It was developed with Western design advice and technology from companies including Italy's Finmeccanica (SIFI.MI), as well as avionics and engine equipment from French aerospace firms Thales (TCFP.PA) and Safran (SAF.PA).

The Superjet 100, with a capacity of 68-103 passengers, was midway through a 15,500-km (9,630-mile) six-nation sales tour.

It is being marketed internationally in partnership with Finmeccanica subsidiary Alenia Aeronautica.

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