The Sukhoi Superjet airliner which crashed in Indonesia on Wednesday had experienced no technical problems and its flight was in full compliance with international rules, leading aviation figures investigating the crash said on Friday.
“There had been no technical problems with the aircraft until the moment of the catastrophe," United Aircraft Corporation (UAC) head Mikhail Pogosyan told journalists in Jakarta. "This is confirmed by the fact that its first flight in Indonesia was carried out perfectly."
The Russian-built aircraft had already carried out one flight earlier on Wednesday, when it slammed into a steep mountainside during its second flight. All 45 people on board - mostly representatives of Indonesian airlines - were killed.
“The flight of the Sukhoi Superjet 100 aircraft was carried out in full compliance with international and Indonesian rules. The airliner had all the necessary documents and performed its flight in compliance with the authorized itinerary,” the head of the Indonesian Aviation Authority said on Friday. The flight recorders have not yet been found.
Pogosyan, a former head of Sukhoi which designed the plane and is part of UAC, said it was still premature to say if pilot error caused the crash.
An article in Russian daily Izvestia, on Friday, suggested the pilots may have been to blame for ignoring or turning off the aircraft's Terrain Warning and Awareness System, which should have alerted them to ground proximity. The article quoted experts from a flight research institute who had carried out flights in a simulator to try and find out what caused the crash.
“Alexander Yablontsev (who was flying the SSJ-100 jet) is our best test pilot. He took part in the full circle from the jet’s design to its certification,” Pogosyan said, adding the cause of the tragedy would only be established after decoding the information from the airliner's flight data recorders.
“Now there is a real opportunity to study the crash scene ... Our experts will work in parallel with the Indonesian experts, " Pogosyan said in an interview with Russia 24 channel.
"Several working groups were created to look at the engineering issues, the flight part, the interaction of the flight crew and ground personnel, to survey the crash site. I think that soon objective information will be available which will provide the necessary set of baseline data for the commission's future work,” he added.
Sukhoi Civil Aircraft’s President Vladimir Prisyazhnyuk agreed that it was too early to say what caused the disaster.
“We haven’t done any modeling in our company and have drawn no conclusions. We will do this when the official commission is ready and when we have the flight data,” he said.
On Thursday, Russia's acting Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin said experts believe "human factor" was the most probable cause of the fatal crash of the aircraft.
"Experts say that all [the aircraft's] equipment functioned smoothly. In other words, it could be some kind of a human error," Rogozin told journalists.
The bodies of the crash victims will not be brought to the country’s capital Jakarta before early Saturday, local media reported on Friday.
Rescuers located earlier on Friday the bodies of 12 of 45 people on board the airliner and brought them to the local village of Pasir-Mangis.
But bad weather in the area has prevented shipment of the victims’ remains to Jakarta until Saturday morning, said head of the Indonesian national search and rescue agency, Madya Daryatmo, Detik.com reported.
A mourning ceremony to honor the dead will be held in the capital, Daryatmo added.
The Russian Emergencies Ministry has sent two Ilyushin Il-76TD aircraft to Indonesia to assist the rescue efforts. The planes are carrying groups of rescuers and medical experts, special equipment and two rescue helicopters.
The crash was the first ever accident involving a Sukhoi Superjet. The type has only recently gone into production, and the first aircraft entered service in 2011 with Armenia’s Armavia and Russia’s Aerolfot.
The Superjet, which was developed jointly with Italy’s Alenia Aeronautica, and uses engines and sub-systems from a range of European and American manufacturers, is designed as a short-haul airliner to replace the Soviet-era Yak-42 and An-24 airliners.