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A Russian Sukhoi airliner with 44 people on board, including businessmen and Russian envoys, disappeared during a demonstration flight near a volcano on Java on Wednesday.
Indonesia’s search and rescue agency said radio contact with the jet was lost after it descended to 6,000 feet close to Mount Salak, a volcano 7,254 feet above sea level, south of Jakarta.
The Sukhoi Superjet 100 – Russia’s first all-new passenger jet since the Soviet collapse – was carrying Indonesian businessmen, Russian embassy officials and journalists. A search by helicopter and land had so far not found it, said Indonesian and Russian officials.
Bambang Ervan, a transport ministry spokesman, said: “The last contact was when they asked for permission to descend from 10,000 feet to 6,000 feet.”
He added: ”it lost contact around Bogor.”
Eight Russians were on board, including pilots and technicians, said Dmitry Solodov from the Russian embassy in Jakarta.
The search and rescue agency is looking for the jet near one of the many volcanoes that form the backbone of Indonesia’s main island.
“Salak’s a big mountain – I didn’t hear anything,” said Jocean Bowler, an American running an organic farm on the slopes of the mountain, visible from the capital on clear days and a popular tourist destination.
Olga Kayukova, a spokeswoman for Russia’s United Aircraft Corporation, told Reuters news agency that the jet was on a second flight as part of a demonstration programme in Indonesia.
“The first flight was carried out in a normal mode … The pre-flight preparations were carried out in full and the plane was completely ready to fly,” she said.
“According to information from Indonesia, the contact with the plane was broken after 20 minutes from the takeoff, at 1435 local time.”
Sukhoi, which has orders for 170 planes worldwide, plans to produce up to 1,000 Superjets, primarily for foreign markets. It hopes to sell 42 planes to Indonesia, which is seeing a fast-expanding aviation market in the world’s fourth most populous nation.
The jet was developed with western design advice and technology from Boeing and Italy’s Finmeccanica , as well as avionics and engine equipment from the French aerospace companies Thales and Safran.
It was first unveiled in 2007 as part of a drive to curb Russia’s dependence on oil and gas and restore pride in its aviation industry, but ran into a series of development delays.
The Superjet 100, with a capacity of 68-103 passengers, is already in service with Russia’s Aeroflot and the US carrier Armavia, and is half way through a six-nation Asian tour to try to drum up more international customers.
The aircraft is being marketed internationally in partnership with the Finmeccanica subsidiary Alenia Aeronautica.