Teams of Indonesian army troops and emergencies personnel are inching up the nearly vertical face of Mount Sakal toward the site where a Russian-made Sukhoi Superjet 100 crashed on Wednesday with 45 people on board, a spokesman at the crisis center set up at Jakarta’s airport told RIA Novosti on Thursday.
The lead group is currently located about 200 meters below the crash site.
The teams are making ladders and carving out ledges for use in hauling out the larger pieces of debris from the plane. It was the first ever crash of this type of aircraft.
The operation will most likely be suspended when night falls in the next few hours.
The searchers have so far discovered no sign of any crash survivors.
Sukhoi Civil Aviation President Vladimir Prisyazhnyuk earlier said he thought the teams climbing the heavily forested ridge would reach the crash site before nightfall.
“The climb to the crash site will take six to eight hours, but since the operation began this morning, they will make it to the spot very soon,” he said.
The crisis center earlier reported that a helicopter-borne search team had begun collecting body fragments at the mountain site, an official at the crisis center told RIA Novosti.
However, Russian blogger Sergey Dolya, part of the Russian delegation at the emergency center in Indonesia, reported on his Twitter feed that the team had been unable to land and that there are still no searchers at the crash site.
Russia’s acting Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin said experts believe the "human factor" was the most probable cause of the fatal crash of the aircraft.
“Experts say that all [aircraft’s] equipment functioned smoothly. In other words, it could be some kind of a human error,” Rogozin told journalists.
Rogozin maintained the aircraft is competitive and has “a bright future,” despite the tragic crash.
The jet disappeared from radar screens
during a demonstration flight near Jakarta on Wednesday, and apparently slammed into a steep mountainside at Mount Salak, outside the capital Jakarta, Indonesian television reported.
There were 45 people on board, including eight Russians, one American, one French, two Italians and 33 Indonesians, Prisyazhnyuk said on Thursday.
Sergey Dolya has reported via Twitter that three of the 48 people listed on the manifest did not in fact board the flight.
Contact with the Superjet was lost after the pilots requested and received permission to descend to 6,000 feet from 10,000 feet, a spokesman for Indonesia’s air traffic control told RIA Novosti.
There was a low overcast at the time of the crash.
Pictures broadcast on television showed what is believed to be debris from the Superjet at the crash site on a very steep slope near Mount Salak. Other debris from the plane tumbled down the mountain.
Only small pieces of debris were visible in pictures from the Indonesian aviation authorities shown to journalists.
The plane apparently almost made it over the mountain. The crash site, located at an estimated altitute of 5,200 feet, is just a few dozen feet below the top of the ridgeline at that spot.
Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev has established a commission to investigate the incident
, the government press service reported earlier on Thursday.
Deputy Industry and Trade Minister Yury Slyusar will head the commission, which includes officials from the Russian Foreign Ministry and United Aircraft Corporation, the Russian holding that owns Superjet manufacturer Sukhoi
Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono later authorized formation jointly with Russia of a crash investigation group.
“I have given the order to conduct a thorough investigation of this tragedy,”
Yudhoyono told local television. “I cannot say anything about the causes of the incident. I ask that Russian and Indonesian aviation specialists tackle this.”
United Aircraft Corporation head Mikhail Pogosyanis due to arrive in Jakarta by 7 p.m. local time on Thursday. He will be joined later in the evening by the head of Rosaviatsia Alexander Neradko and the acting head of the Industry and Trade Ministry Denis Manturov.
The aircraft's two existing users, Russia's main airline Aero
lfot and Armenia's Armavia, both said on Thursday they had no plans to ground their Superjets in connection with the accident.
The Sukhoi Superjet is Russia's only civil airliner in production in significant numbers, and is regarded by many aviation industry analysts as Russia's last hope of remaining as a player in civil aerospace.