Jakarta: A new Russian-made civilian plane carrying 46 people lost contact with air controllers in Indonesia while flying over mountains on Wednesday in a demonstration flight for potential buyers and journalists, officials said.

Search and rescue teams were heading to the area in western Indonesia, said Bambang Ervan, a spokesman for the Ministry of Transportation. Bad weather, however, forced at least two helicopters to turn back.

The Sukhoi Superjet-100, a civilian plane, took off from Halim Perdanakusuma Airport in the capital, Jakarta, at 2:21 pm (0721 GMT).

It dropped off the radar 12 minutes later, after the crew asked permission from air traffic control to descend from 3,000 meters to 1,800 meters near the Salak mountain range.

Rear Marshal Daryatmo, chief of the national search and rescue agency, said the crew did not have time to explain why they wanted to change course.

"I saw a big plane passing just over my house," said Juanda, a villager who lives near the 2,200-meter- mountain told the local station TVOne.

"It was veering a bit to one side, the engine roaring," she said. "It seemed to be heading toward Salak, but I didn't hear an explosion or anything."

Daryatmo said several diplomats from the Russian Embassy, potential buyers from major Indonesian airlines and journalists were on board what was supposed to be a 50-minute demonstration flight the second of the day.

Though two helicopters had to turn back by early evening, soldiers, police and members of the air force had joined the land-based search and rescue efforts, he said.


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