Weekly insights into our crazy world.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012


Flying High: The Sukhoi Super Jet 100.

At first, we here at the DUNER BLOG largely ignored last week's terrible airliner crash in Indonesia.  To be honest, we incorrectly grouped it with other transportation tragedies of the month.  Remember?  A passenger ferry capsized in Bangladesh...there was a Dutch train crash...and a packed Guatemalan bus slid off a rain soaked highway.  All were very unfortunate occurrences...and all happen way too often...but the staff didn't do much investigation.  However, over the weekend, a colleague of the blog pointed out that this was no ordinary crash.  We looked into the shocking details of the plane crash and were appalled!  Here's what we found out:

The story begins twelve years ago in a posh Moscow penthouse.  Representatives from BOEING and Russian airline manufacturer SUKHOI are sipping champagne...celebrating while signing paperwork for a new joint venture.   Their plan is build a new, more affordable commuter plane.  Demand for short flights in emerging Asian nations is sky-high.  The story continues.  After a couple years of development, the project received some serious capital investment from the Russian government:  Eight billion Rubles! (Around $300 million). All went as planned. The prototypes passed all international tests.  It was even fuel efficient.  In April of 2011, the SUPERJET 100 made its inaugural flight for Armavia Airlines from Yerevan to Moscow.  Orders poured in for the plane. What a success story!   

Guess where on Mt. Salak the plane crashed.
Then...suddenly...it all came crashing down!  Last month, SUKHOI executives embarked on a six-nation "Fly Asia" tour to promote the SUPER JET 100.  They met with Air Astana in Kazakhstan and Shaheen Air in Pakistan.   Their next stop was Jakarta.  All was going just a planned. Sriwijaya Air executives and local journalists had just finished dining on Satay Ponorgo and Gado Gado.   Next, the happy 45 passengers then boarded the aircraft for their 50 minute "fun flight." Smooth talking Russians  demonstrated just how wonderful the new jet really is.  Many snapped photos on their cell phones and posted them on FACEBOOK.  Well...let's just end the story there.  We won't tell you about the plane crashing into Mount Salak and all passengers dying a horrible, painful death.  Oops!

Not so fast! says SUKHOI spokesperson OLGA KAYUKOVA.  Let's not jump to any conclusions! She was quick to point out that the plane that crashed "was not the same aircraft" as those used on earlier demonstrations.  She also issued statements reminding us that until the investigations are completed, we simply cannot assume the crash is in anyway related to shoddy reputation Russians have when it comes to manufacturing aircraft.  Really...Olga?  Let's look at some statistics.  According to the AVIATION SAFETY NETWORK, Russia had an accident rate "of 7.15 hull losses per million sectors, which is almost three times the world rate." We here at the DUNER BLOG don't know what a "hull loss" is but...it sounds bad.  Our travel advice for anyone traveling in Russia has always been: Take the train!  

Six times as many planes crash in Russia than in the USA.
The truth is no one will ever know who is to blame in a plane crash when everyone dies.  Until the dreaded 'Black Box" is located, don't expect any official statements from the government any time soon.  All we know for sure is for some reason, the pilot asked for permission to drop from 10,000 feet to 6,000 feet a mere twelve minutes after takeoff. End of story.  We here at the DUNER BLOG send out condolences to the families of the victims and hope someday safety will be placed ahead of profits.

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