By Putu Deny Wijaya
Demo Flight Gone Horribly Wrong: The 2012 Mount Salak Sukhoi Superjet Crash
In Indonesia, a Sukhoi SSJ100 crashed after disobeying an instrument warning.
All 37 occupants and eight crew members were killed when a Russian-built Sukhoi Superjet 100 crashed into Mount Salak in Indonesia on May 9, 2012, when it was conducting a demonstration tour of Asia.
In 2001, Sukhoi determined the demand for a regional airliner with a range of between 3,000 and 4,500 kilometers by studying the Russian aviation market. Sukhoi predicted that 800 of the aircraft may be sold. 200 to 300 would be sent to airlines from Russia and the Commonwealth of Independent States.
In 2012, Sukhoi already had orders for the SSJ100 from Aeroflot, Malév, and Armavia, but it wanted to know whether airlines in Asia would be interested in the aircraft. As is customary for aircraft manufacturers seeking overseas consumers, the company chose to travel Asia with the aircraft.
The aircraft made a good demonstration in Kazakhstan before heading to Pakistan, but a leak in one of its engines prevented it from taking prospective customers on a test flight. Another SSJ100 was sent to Indonesia to continue the tour while the plane was flown back to Moscow.
Several representatives of Indonesian airlines boarded the aircraft, which departed from Halim Perdanakusuma International Airport (HLP) at about 14:00 local time. The pilots asked for permission to descend from 3,000m to 1,800m at 14:26. (10,000 ft to 6,000 ft). After receiving clearance to lower its height, the aircraft requested permission to orbit to the right two minutes later. This was the final time the plane and air traffic control spoke, and it was also approved.
The andesitic stratovolcano Mount Salak, which is 2,100 meters (7,524 feet) tall and last erupted in 1938, was located close to the aircraft. The crew was informed by the aircraft’s Enhanced Ground Proximity Warning System (EGPWS) shortly after the aircraft made a right turn with the warning “Terrain Ahead, Pull Up.” The pilots were alerted of the necessity to maneuver the aircraft in order to avoid crashing a moment later by the sound of a second warning, “Avoid Terrain.”
The pilots disabled the EGPWS because they thought it was broken rather than paying attention to the alert. The aircraft’s warning system sounded a few seconds later with the message “Gear Not Down” to indicate that the aircraft was approaching the ground but had not yet lowered its landing gear. The captain disengaged the autopilot and slightly raised the nose, but it was too little too late as the plane slammed into the mountain.
On Dec. 18, 2012, the final crash investigation report was made public. It found that the aircraft’s terrain warning system had been operational and had alerted the pilots to the hazard. However, the pilots disabled the system because they mistakenly thought it was broken, despite the fact that the surrounding area was obscured by a heavy cloud cover.
A conversation that was going on in the flight deck contributed to the accident. The investigators also learned that the pilots of the plane were unfamiliar with the region’s rough terrain and were operating without the necessary charts.