Indonesia was the fourth stop of a six-nation "Welcome Asia!" tour, by Sukhoi was one of the company’s brightest hopes, with Kartika Airlines, Sky Aviation and Queen Air all aiming to purchase the Russian-made aircraft.These sales have now been put on hold pending the investigation by Indonesian and Russian crash investifators into the tragic accident.
The crash site was discovered Thursday by a rescue helicopter, one of several dispatched by the Indonesian authorities on a search mission. A picture taken from the helicopter appeared to show that the plane hit the top of an almost vertical wall of rock. Small pieces of white debris could be seen scattered down an exposed stretch of cliff. The crash site was on the side of Mount Selang, a dormant volcano.
The area is very prone to flight disruptions with massive cloud and dense fog mixed with heavy rain appearing in minutes and disappearing just as quickly knowledgeable local avaiation experts say.
Indonesia Transportation Accident Investigators say so many of the victims of at least seven aircraft which have crashed into the Salak Mountain cliffs in the last nine years include senior pilots, Military Flight Instructors; Civilian aviators including Para-athletes.
Sukhoi's chief civil test pilot, Alexander Yablontsev, and his co-pilot, Alexander Kochetkov, were at the controls of the plane. Yablontsev had accumulated 10,000 flight hours and commanded the Superjet on its maiden flight in 2008. He had flown the jet from Russia to Kazakhstan, Pakistan and Myanmar, before arriving in Indonesia. He had already flown one demonstration flight successfully on Wednesday.
Other than the pilots, there were seven other Russians on board. They were, navigator Oleg Shvetsov, flight engineer Aleksey Kirkin, leading test-flight engineer Dennis Rakhmanov, test-flight deputy head Nikolay Martyshenko, Sukhoi sales director Evgeny Grebenshchikov and contract manager Kristina Kurzhukova.
The other passengers were Indonesians, including journalists and businessmen, two Italians, one French citizen and one American, said Vladimir Prisyazhnyuk, the head of Sukhoi Civil Aircraft.
On Thursday afternoon Russian President Vladimir Putin sent a message of condolence to the President of Indonesia Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono following the crash.
“I highly appreciate your personal efforts to organise the search operation and investigation into the crash. For my part, I have issued the necessary instructions to the Russian representatives to take an active part in the ongoing investigation in close cooperation with our Indonesian partners.
“Mr President, please convey my sympathy and condolences to the families and friends of the victims.”