Authorities began the grim task on Thursday, May 10, 2012 of recovering bodies from the wreckage of a Russian Sukhoi Superjet 100 which crashed the previous day into the side of Mount Salek, an extinct volcano in West Java, Indonesia, as reported on that date by The New York Times, the Daily News, Bloomberg News Service, the Daily Mail, Sky News, the BBC, and other sources.
At least 12 bodies have been located and retrieved from the densely overgrown landscape near the village of Bogor as Indonesian police and marines used climbing gear to scale the steep slopes.
Many of the corpses had been torn apart by the force of the impact, making the job of collecting them even more difficult, according to Lieutenant Colonel Oni Juniato of the Indonesian marines, who led a search team which found eight of the dead before returning to a lower elevation base camp.
Judging from the appearance of the impact field, and the fact that no large pieces of the aircraft were visible, there is speculation on the Professional Pilots Rumor Network (PPRunNe) and elsewhere, that the aircraft was involved in a controlled flight into terrain (CFIT). The unanswered question is why such a tragic event happened.
This next generation commercial aircraft was carrying 44 invited guests on a promotional sales tour to potential buyers when it disappeared from rader over a mountainous region of Indonesia on Wednesday, May 9, 2012 at 2:35 p.m., about 20 minutes into the flight.
Most of the passengers were from Indonesia, members of the media as well as representatives from several airlines. The casualties also included 8 Russians, 2 Italians, 1 French citizen, and 1 American. Other than the pilot and copilot, none of the names of those aboard the doomed aircraft have been released.
The recently introduced plane was equipped with the latest fly-by-wire technology, including terrain avoidance radar. It was being flown by a highly experienced Russian crew, including pilot Alexander Yablontsev and copilot Alexander Kochetkov. The 57-years-old pilot, Captain Yablontsev, was reported to have many years of flying experience in 45 different types of aircraft, as seen in the attached slide show and video clip which accompany this report.
According to British aviation safety expert David Learmount, who was interviewed by Russia Today, “No airplane of this standard is just going to fall out of the sky. It is in Indonesia on a demonstration tour of the world showing off to potential customers. Sometimes the pilot or crews take the aircraft right close to their limit, and at times they push the aircraft too far.”
That view is supported by Magomed Tolboev, a former Russian commercial pilot, who believes that the cause of the accident is most likely to be human error.
The Republic of Indonesia is a country in Southeast Asia and Oceania with an archipelago comprising approximately 17,508 islands that make up 33 provinces with over 238 million people, and is the world’s fourth most populous country. It is linked together by air routes because it covers such a large land mass of 735,355 square miles.
Indonesian airlines had already placed firm orders for 12 of the Sukhoi Superjet planes, in a deal worth $350 million. Prior to the fatal crash two days ago, the same aircraft had taken part in demonstration sales flights in Pakistan, Kazakhstan, and Myanmar. Sales tours had planned to continue in Laos and Vietnam.
The aircraft was certified by the Russian Interstate Aviation Committee in January 2011 and by the European Aviation Safety Agency in February 2012.
The Sukhoi Superjet has been in commercial service since April 21, 2011. Eight of the aircraft are currently being operated by the Russian airline Aeroflot and Armavia, an Armenian carrier based in Yerevan. Before this tragedy, there were 4 additional prototype aircraft used for sales, training, and demonstration purposes.
Orders for the fuel efficient, technically advanced aircraft already total 235 planes from 23 different sources, mostly from companies within Russia, but also including some foreign sales, with options to purchase 94 additional aircraft. Russia Today has reported that the loss of the $35 million plane would be a major blow to the emerging Russian aircraft industry, and particularly its manufacturer, Komsomolsk-on-Amur Aircraft Production Association, which produces the 95-seat regional jet.
It is a tragedy whenever an aircraft is lost, but especially devastating for a newly certified plane, as it may indicate a previously undiscovered design flaw that may produce a loss of confidence in perspective operators. However, there would be less negative impact if the cause of this crash is found to be human error.
We offer our condolences to the family and colleagues of those who perished in this terrible incident.
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