A Russian Sukhoi Superjet 100 on a demonstration flight with at least 44 people aboard went missing in a mountainous area south of Jakarta yesterday, officials said.
“The plane disappeared from the radar around the Bogor area. We are still looking for it and we are uncertain whether it crashed,” said Gagah Prakoso, spokesman for the national search and rescue agency.
The plane took off at 2pm from east Jakarta’s Halim Perdanakusuma airport, which is used for some commercial and military flights, he said.
“At 2:50pm it dropped from 10,000 feet [3,000m] to 6,000 feet,” the agency added in a text message.
The Indonesian Minister of Transport’s spokesman, Bambang Ervan, said the descent was intentional, and that the pilot was trying to head back to the Halim air field.
He said the flight went missing “in a mountainous area 10 nautical miles [18.5km] from Bogor military airbase.”
The rescue agency spokesman said it was carrying 46 people, but Dimitry Solodov, press attache at the Russian embassy in Jakarta, said he could confirm 44 on board, eight of them Russian airline crew members, and some journalists.
Herry Bakti, head of the transport ministry’s aviation division, said the aircraft was on the second of two demonstration flights, and those on board were invited guests.
Prakoso said a team of about 200 police, military and rescue workers were headed in vehicles and on foot toward Salak mountain where the plane went missing.
“A helicopter was sent earlier, but it returned because it was getting dark and raining. We will continue searching by air again first thing tomorrow,” he said.
The Antara news agency said that domestic Indonesian carrier Kartika Airlines and regional carrier Sky Aviation had both placed orders for the Sukhoi Superjet.
The Sukhoi Superjet 100 is a new passenger plane built by Russia in a bid to lift its civil aviation industry from a post-Soviet crisis.
The Superjet only made its first commercial flight last year and if a major accident is confirmed, it would be the first disaster to involve the aircraft, which is made by legendary Russian planemaker Sukhoi.