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Southeast Asia, explained

Indonesia: a Russian jet crash, a soaring airline market

Plane disaster highlights Indonesia's skyrocketing air travel demand
Russian plane indonesia 2012 05 10Enlarge
A Russian Sukhoi Superjet 100 in flight. (PIERRE VERDY/AFP/Getty Images)

Dozens of outlets are reporting that a top-of-the-line Russian jet, filled with embassy delegates and prospective buyers, has crashed into the side of an Indonesian volcano.

The Associated Press reports that all 47 passengers, most of them Indonesian, are likely dead.

But what was the $35 million jet, a Sukhoi Superjet 100, doing in Indonesia in the first place?

Despite its reputation for poverty and corruption, Indonesia is the place to be for airplane manufacturing giants looking to cut deals in an emerging market.

That's exactly what representatives of Sukhoi, Russia's premier aeronautics entity, were attempting to do before the crash. The jet, according to AFP, was touring the region on a promotional tour to interest new buyers.

Both demographics and geography make Indonesia fertile ground for such deals. Its enormous population, the world's fourth largest, is giving rise to a growing middle class. Those who can afford to move about in the sprawling archipelago must buy plane tickets. There's just no other efficient way to get from island to island. The country relies on air travel to function.

A staggering statistic published by the Jakarta Globe illuminates just how fast the market is growing: the chief airport in the capital, Jakarta, saw the number of passengers shoot from 12 million to 50 million last year.

This crash is an enormous setback for Sukhoi. But it's unlikely to put a dent in Indonesia's hunger for new aircraft.

http://www.globalpost.com/globalpost-blogs/southeast-asia/russian-jet-crash-indonesia