It’s always dangerous jumping to conclusions about an airliner crash within hours or days after an accident, but the speculation began very quickly after the Sukhoi Superjet went missing yesterday in Indonesia.
Despite the demographic of the passengers on board, Russia floated the possibility the aircraft had been hijacked. This seemed an incredible possibility given the passengers were made up of airline executives, journalists and members of the Indonesian aerospace industry.
The facts, though sparse, seemed to parallel other accidents throughout aviation industry over the decades. The captain of the flight asked for clearance to descend to 6,000 ft from 10,000 ft in a mountainous area where peaks were 6,200 to 7,000 ft (reports varied). It wasn’t clear what the weather was at the time the airplane disappeared, but searches were suspended later in part because of fog.
Descending to an altitude below the mountain tops suggests that CFIT (and pilot error) might be involved. CFIT stands for Controlled Flight Into Terrain.
But the altitude of the crash site was reported to be around 5,800 feet, slightly below the clearance. Does this suggest equipment malfunction? Or did the pilot “break” altitude, a not unknown occurrence.
If weather was a factor, might there have been wind shears at play?
What does this accident do to Sukhoi’s reputation? This column concludes it is destroyed. We aren’t ready to agree with that.(Update, 9:30am PDT: The headline on the column has been changed to suggest there is now an “operational risk” to the program as opposed to the program being “destroyed.”) (Update, 3:30pm PDT: Now the headline is about “reputational risk….”)
If this turns out to be pilot error or a weather-driven accident, why should the plane’s reputation suffer? If it is an equipment failure, a lot of Western equipment is on the aircraft and perhaps the fault might lie there.
What do readers think?