From Kathy Quiano, CNN: The wreckage of a Russian passenger airliner that went missing during a demonstration flight over Indonesia has been located in a mountainous area, but rescue workers have yet to find any survivors, officials said Thursday.
Teams searching for the plane spotted debris from the Sukhoi Superjet 100 at a height of about 5,800 feet (1,800 meters) on the side of Mount Salak, a volcano south of Jakarta, said Vice Marshal Daryatmo, head of the National Search and Rescue Agency.
Daryatmo, who like many Indonesians only uses one name, said the Sukhoi logo had been identified amid the wreckage of the plane, which disappeared off radar screens Wednesday.
Meanwhile, the Russian Investigative Committee said it had launched a criminal probe into possible safety violations.
Rescue workers have not found any survivors so far, said Gagah Prakoso, a spokesman for the rescue agency. He said the authorities plan to start removing bodies from the area by helicopter Friday.
Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono said in a brief televised address that the Russian plane appeared to have crashed into Mount Salak.
An image released by the Indonesian military showed bits of debris strewn across a patch of steep mountainside stripped bare of the thick vegetation covering the surrounding area.
The cause of the crash remained unclear.The Russian Investigative Committee said 48 people were on board, including eight Russian crew members.
Contact lost with plane minutes into flight
The plane was on its second demonstration flight Wednesday when it lost contact with air controllers at Jakarta’s Halim Perdanakusuma Airport.
“The first demonstration flight in the morning went smoothly. There were no problems,” said Sunaryo, an official with Sukhoi’s Indonesian agent, Trimarga Rekatama, who also uses only one name.
On the second flight, the plane began making its descent but vanished from radar screens at 6,200 feet in a mountainous area.
The plane lost contact with air traffic controllers at 2:12 p.m., 21 minutes after taking off, said Daryatmo, the rescue agency chief. Two helicopters were immediately sent out to search for the plane but had to return to their bases due to strong winds and unpredictable weather.
The Sukhoi jet arrived in Jakarta as part of a demonstration tour of six Asian countries. It had been to Myanmar, Pakistan and Kazakhstan, and was due to visit Laos and Vietnam after Indonesia, said the Russian news agency RIA Novosti.
Sukhoi manufactures military aircraft and is known especially for its fighter jets. Its civilian aircraft is narrow-bodied with a dual-class cabin that can transport 100 passengers over regional routes. It flew its maiden flight in 2008.
In March, a Superjet 100 operated by Russia’s Aeroflot Airlines was forced to abandon its flight to Astrakhan, Russia, and return to Moscow because of problems with the undercarriage, according to RIA Novosti.
A similar defect in another Aeroflot-operated Superjet 100 plane had to be fixed in Minsk in December.
Russia’s state-run United Aircraft Corp. said the defect did not affect passenger safety.
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