Indonesia approves Sukhoi jets despite crash
Indonesia has certified Russian-made Sukhoi civilian jets as airworthy, allowing the export of the planes to the booming aviation market despite a pending probe into a crash that killed all 45 onboard.
A Sukhoi Superjet 100 slammed into the 7,200-foot (2,200-metre) Mount Salak volcano in western Java on May 9 during an exhibition flight to showcase the jet in Indonesia, where the aviation industry is rapidly expanding.
"We gave Sukhoi certification on Tuesday that validates the aircraft as airworthy," transport ministry spokesman Bambang Ervan told AFP on Wednesday.
"We looked at the aircraft's build, design and engine and found it met both international and Indonesian standards."
The approval allows the sale of the jet in Indonesia, Ervan said, where local carriers Kartika Airlines and Sky Aviation have orders for 30 and 12 aircraft respectively, with each jet priced at around $30 million.
Sky Aviation will receive its first aircraft in December and the remaining by 2015, marketing manager Sutito Zainudin said.
"The certification is welcome news, and we have always been confident in the Sukhoi Superjet's airworthiness," Zainudin said.
The National Transport Safety Committee conducting the investigation into the crash said it had come up with preliminary results in a draft that would be finalised by December.
"We cannot give any information about the investigation, but the crash and the certification are two different things. They have nothing to do with each other," committee chairman Tatang Kurniadi said.
Questions have swirled about why the plane descended to a dangerously low altitude in mountainous terrain before crashing with an experienced pilot at the helm.
The Superjet accident was a heavy blow to the Russian aviation industry, which was hoping the new plane, the first new civilian aircraft built in post-Soviet Russia, would improve its image.
The twin-engine plane made its first commercial flight last year and has already been certified as airworthy in Europe.
The Superjet project is a joint venture between Sukhoi and Italy's Alenia Aeronautica.
© 2012 AFP