Plane missing over Mt. Salak
Authorities have revealed that the last known position of the missing Russian airliner was over the base of Mt. Salak in West Java before it lost contact with Halim Perdanakusuma Airport.
The National Search and Rescue Agency (Basarnas) chief, Vice Marshal Daryatmo said the last known position of the Sukhoi Superjet 100 was at 06 43’08” South, 106 43’15” East. The coordinates refer to the vicinity of Cidahu village in Sukabumi regency, West Java, the base of Mt. Salak.
The last contact with the airport was made at 2:33 p.m. Jakarta time (GMT +7) after the pilots requested permission to descend from 10,000 feet to 6,000 feet.
There was an unconfirmed report that villagers had found airplane wreckage on the slopes of Mt. Salak near Cidahu.
Daryatmo told a press conference on Wednesday evening that his agency would send three helicopters to the location on Thursday morning, leaving at 7 a.m. Basarnas had to recall two of its helicopters on Wednesday afternoon due to bad weather.
He said the missing aircraft took off at 2:12 p.m. from Halim, planning to head south to Pelabuhan Ratu in Sukabumi, West Java, before returning to Halim.
Also speaking at the press conference was Sunaryo from PT Tri Marga Rekatama, Sukhoi’s agent in Indonesia. He confirmed there were 50 people, 42 passengers and eight Russian crew on the ill-fated flight.
Earliest reports said the aircraft carried 44 people including the crew while later the number was increased to 46 people.
According to the manifest, on board the flight, the second of the day, were journalists from Angkasa aviation magazine, Bloomberg news agency and Trans TV. Vice president of business integration at the state aircraft maker, Kornel M. Sihombing, was also listed as being on board.
Separately, Transportation Ministry Air Transportation director general Herry Bhakti Gumay could not confirm the sub-100 seater aircraft had crashed, despite it being missing for more than four hours.
“We cannot declare that the plane crashed into the ground because we do not have enough evidence to prove it,” Herry told The Jakarta Post over the phone on Wednesday.
He said that the government maintained the status as “missing”.
“The aircraft might have conducted an emergency landing somewhere and we have not been able to determine its location,” he added.
He said an emergency landing could have been conducted if the aircraft ran out of fuel preventing the plane from returning to Halim.
Meanwhile from Bandung, it was reported that the West Java Disaster Management Agency (BPBD) had deployed hundreds of volunteers.
BPBD chief Udjwalprana Sigit said his agency had coordinated with Basarnas to focus the search around Mt. Salak, the location where the last contact with the plane was recorded. “We have prepared three search posts in three districts around Mt. Salak,” he told the Post on Wednesday night.
The posts are in Cidahu district in Sukabumi, Cibodas district in Cianjur and Tamansari district in Bogor.
He added that currently there was conflicting information about the missing plane. “We have deployed all volunteers to the site based on information we have received, however we are focusing the search in Cidahu, Sukabumi.”
The missing regional airliner was on a “road show” in several Central and Southeast Asian countries to introduce the airplane by conducting demonstration flights, the Russian Embassy in Jakarta said in a media statement.
Other countries included in the road show were Kazakhstan, Pakistan, Myanmar, Laos and Vietnam. The aircraft arrived from Myanmar on Tuesday and was slotted to leave for Laos on Thursday.
An Indonesian airline, Sky Aviation, signed a contract to purchase 12 Sukhoi Superjets with a value of US$380.4 million on Aug. 16, 2011, during the Moscow Air Show.
An Indonesian Air Force NC-212 crashed in the same area in 2008 killing all 18 passengers.
Nurfika Osman helped with this report from Jakarta and Theresia Sufa from Bogor while Arya Dipa and Yuli Tri Suwarni contributed from Bandung.