Photo by Eric Piermont/AFP/Getty Images.
UPDATE: Search teams found at least 12 bodies Friday near the site of where a Russian passenger jet crashed into the side of an Indonesian volcano earlier this week. All 45 passengers are feared dead.
The Associated Press reports that a team of about 85 people are scouring the Mount Salak area but so far have had difficulty given the region's steep cliffs and ravines.
Thursday, May 10: All 45 passengers aboard a Russian airliner that disappeared from radar screens Wednesday during what was supposed to be a 50-minute demo flight are feared dead. Dozens of journalists and international airline representatives were aboard the Superjet 100—Russia’s first new model since the end of the Cold War—that was hoped to herald a new age in Russia’s aerospace industry.
The Associated Press reports that the wreckage was spotted Thursday on the steep side of a dormant volcano in Indonesia. The remote location is six to eight hours by foot, according to ABC News, so rescue agencies said they will need to airlift bodies by helicopter.
The head of Indonesia’s National Search and Rescue Agency told the AP that 21 minutes after takeoff from Jakarta, the Russian pilot and copilot asked air traffic control if they could drop the plane from 10,000 to 6,000 feet over the mountainous terrain of West Java, but didn't explain why. An investigation into the crash is trying to determine whether it was pilot error or a technical malfunction that caused the mysterious crash.
One American, who seems to have been an airline consultant for a domestic Indonesian carrier, was on board, according to ABC News.
The New York Times explains that the plane was produced by state-controlled Sukhoi company, which is better known for its fighter jets, and was hoped to be priced at a competitive $31.7 million, one-third cheaper than comparable jets made in Canada. "They have to clear this up very, very fast in terms of causes," an American aerospace analyst told the paper. "This plane had given the Russians hope that they could resurrect some of what they once had."