Catastrophe hits Sukhoi's Asian tour

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Sukhoi's high-profile efforts to promote its Superjet 100 twinjet in Asia ended in catastrophe last week after a demonstrator aircraft crashed in high terrain.

The aircraft, the third flying prototype - serial number 95004 - was performing its second demonstration flight of 9 May when air traffic control lost radar contact near the town of Bogor, Java.

Indonesian director general for civil aviation Herry Bakti says contact was lost near the peak of Mount Salak, which rises to more than 7,000ft (2,100m), some 20min into the flight, which departed at 14:35 local time from Jakarta-Halim Perdana Kusuma airport.

Basarnas, Indonesia's search-and-rescue organisation, says it located wreckage at 5,800ft on the flanks of Mount Salak on 10 May.

None of the 45 occupants, including local journalists and representatives of Indonesian airline customers, survived and rescue efforts - hampered by poor weather and terrain - turned to recovering flight recorders.

Images from the scene show the aircraft crashed into a forested cliff, just below the summit of a ridge. The crash site is "very steep" with a slope of 70˚, says the Indonesian air force.

Shortly before loss of contact, the flight had descended from 10,000ft to 6,000ft. There is no indication as to whether any ground-proximity warning system was active, or sounded, before the collision.

FULL CHECK

Alenia and Sukhoi joint venture Superjet International confirmed the aircraft had completed a full pre-flight check and no technical issues were reported before take-off. There was no report of any failure before the aircraft disappeared from radar.

Superjet International says the aircraft had completed 500 cycles, accumulating more than 800h. "No serious technical problems have [ever been] reported," Superjet adds. Among the victims was Sukhoi's chief Superjet test pilot Alexander Yablontsev, who had logged more than 10,000h during his career. The aircraft involved had first flown in July 2009 and been used for cold-weather testing in Yakutsk, radiation field testing in Italy, and automatic low-visibility landing tests in Moscow in the run-up to European certification.

Loss of the Superjet is another setback to post-Soviet attempts to revive commercial aircraft production. Ukraine's Antonov An-140 turboprop suffered two early losses, including a terrain-collision accident in Iran which killed several senior executives and an experienced test crew from airframer KSAMC.

Sukhoi had been demonstrating the aircraft as part of an Asian roadshow which began on 3 May. The jet had travelled to Kazakhstan, Pakistan and Myanmar before heading to Indonesia. It was due to fly on to Laos and Vietnam.