Friday, May 11, 2012


     Jakarta, May 11, 2012 (ANTARA) - Many were enthusiastic about joining the demonstration flight of the Sukhoi Superjet 100 which took off from Halim Perdanakusuma air force base, East Jakarta, on Wednesday (May 9). For a Trans TV journalist, it was reportedly her first experience in an airplane.
      The night before her flight, Ismiyati (23), who had just joined Trans TV, sent her father a short text message asking for his permission and requesting him to pray for the flight`s safety. She wrote that she was slightly nervous to be flying for the first time.
      Ismiyati and 44 other businessmen and journalists, including eight Russians and 35 Indonesians, were on board the Sukhoi Superjet 100 (SJJ 100) that took off from Halim Perdanakusuma at 2:21 pm for a short demo flight above Jakarta and Bogor (West Java). However, around 12 minutes later - at 2:33 pm - the Russian-made plane disappeared from the radar.
       The SSJ 100 reportedly dropped off the radar shortly after the crew asked the air traffic controllers for permission to descend from an altitude of 10,000 feet to 6,000 feet (3,000 metres to 1,800 metres), although the mountainous terrain around Bogor and Sukabumi reaches up to 7,000 feet at its highest point.
      "The altitude of 6,000 feet would have been safe if the plane were flying above Atang Sanjaya airport in Bogor, but the Sukhoi`s wreckage was found on a cliff of Mount Salak in Sukabumi district," declared Herry Bakti S Gumay, the transportation ministry`s director general of air transportation, in a written statement on Friday.

He added that there should be no speculation about the cause of the accident, and that everyone must wait for the results of the investigation carried out by the Transportation Safety National Committee (KNKT).

Immediately after receiving report of the plane`s disappearance on Wednesday afternoon, the Indonesian authorities mobilised search and rescue officers to look for any clues of the missing plane.

Halim Perdanakusuma has become the main command post where the victims` families have gathered to closely monitor the Search and Rescue (SAR) efforts. At least two more command posts have been prepared in the Bogor and Sukabumi districts, West Java province.

The Russian embassy in Jakarta in its press statement released on Friday stated that the embassy is also operating a crisis centre in close cooperation with local authorities to constantly monitor the situation in the field.

On his visit to Halim on Thursday morning, President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono instructed the SAR teams to prioritise the rescue and evacuation of survivors, if any.

Speaking to the press at that time, the president said that he has directed the head of the National SAR Agency (Basarnas) Vice Marshal Daryatmo to take every step necessary to rescue any survivors of the plane accident.

"I am concerned, it`s an accident. There are more than 40 passengers, and mostly Indonesians - including journalists. Therefore, we pray for the best," he remarked.

He also ordered a thorough investigation to find out why the SSJ 100 crashed during the short flight.

The SAR agency mobilised at least four helicopters to look for the missing plane at the coordinates from where the plane had made its last contact before disappearing in the Mount Salak area located between the Bogor and Sukabumi districts.

On Thursday at 8:30 am local time, the SAR team aboard one of the helicopters spotted the wreckage of the ill-fated plane on the edge of a cliff about 5,500 feet (1,650 metres) high on Mount Salak.

After locating the crash site, the SAR team immediately sent an evacuation team by land, which was estimated to take at least five hours to reach the site, after traversing through a deep ravine and thick forests to reach the steep cliff.

However, the evacuation process was halted on Thursday evening due to bad weather, as the mountain - which is geographically very difficult to access because of its steep and hilly terrain - was covered by thick fog.

"The slope where the plane crash was spotted has an inclination of nearly 85 degrees. We are relying on the land evacuation team now," Vice Marshal Daryatmo declared on Thursday.

The evacuation efforts have been resumed since Friday morning by mobilising an SAR team (comprising members of the army, navy, air force and police), at least 25 ambulances and seven helicopters. Around 100 body bags have also been prepared, given the fact that the plane has been found in ruins.

Daryatmo told reporters in Halim that as of 2 pm local time on Friday, rescuers have found 12 bodies at the crash site, where a helipad is being prepared for evacuation of the bodies by helicopter. However, there have been no reports of survivors so far.

KNKT Chief Tatang Kurniadi stated that the crash incident is being investigated by experts from both Indonesia and Russia.

President Yudhoyono confirmed that Russia is participating in the investigation. "I welcome the cooperation offered by President Putin," declared the head of state when he again met with the families of the air crash victims at Halim on Friday morning.

The cooperation offered by Vladimir Putin will involve search and evacuation efforts, identification of victims and an investigation into the cause of the airplane accident.

Yudhoyono and Putin discussed the accident over the telephone on Thursday at 10:30 pm Jakarta time, and both expressed their deep condolences and sympathy to the victims` families.

On a separate occasion, the president`s special aide for international affairs Teuku Faizasyah remarked that during the call, Putin commended the Indonesian government`s efforts in mobilising search and rescue efforts and initiating an investigation into the accident.

According to the Russian news agency Itar-Tass, the Russian Ministry for Emergency Situations has sent a rescue team to Indonesia to take part in the search and rescue operations at the crash site.

The ministry`s spokesperson Irina Andrianova told Itar-Tass, "As decided by the country`s leadership and in coordination with the Indonesian side, the Russian Ministry for Emergency Situations has sent rescuers and the necessary equipment, including a Bo-105 helicopter, for a search and rescue operation."

"All the rescuers are trained in mountain climbing and have the required equipment. They will take part in the search for flight recorders and in other work," Andrianova pointed out.

According to Russia`s Ria Novosti news agency, the SSJ 100 medium-haul regional aircraft, which has been under development since 2000, is the first new Russian passenger airliner designed since the fall of the Soviet Union.

It is also the first civil aircraft for Sukhoi, known for its fighter jets. The bureau had brought in a variety of foreign partners to develop the Superjet, including Boeing, whose specialists were involved in designing the aircraft.

Other foreign companies to work on the Superjet include Italy`s Finnmeccanica as a major investor, France`s Snecma for the engines and Thales for avionics, and German`s Liebherr for the steering and life support system.

The SSJ 100 performed its maiden test flight in 2008; it was certified for operation in Russia in 2011 and the European Union in February 2012.

The aircraft was selling slowly but steadily in a highly competitive market, with seven superjets being operated by Russia`s Aeroflot and one by Armenia`s Armavia. Neither carrier has grounded their superjets following the crash in Indonesia.

Sukhoi had orders for 168 SSJ 100 prior to the crash, including those from Russia`s Transaero, Indonesia`s Kartika Airline (30 aircrafts) and PT Sky Aviation (12 aircrafts).

The demonstration flight in Indonesia is part of the Sukhoi Civil Aircraft`s road shows that have been conducted in Southeast and Central Asian countries such as Pakistan, Myanmar, Laos and Vietnam. ***3***

(T.F001/A/KR-BSR/A/A014) 11-05-2012 18:19:50

No comments:

Post a Comment