PAF eyes materiel failure in crash


    PHILIPPINE Air Force investigators will look into materiel factor in the probe of last Saturday’s crash of a UH-1H or Huey helicopter in Bukidnon that claimed the lives of two officers and five other military personnel.

    Air Force spokesman Lt. Col. Aristides Galang yesterday said the Air Force leadership has dispatched a team of investigators to Bukidnon to investigate what caused the mishap.

    “Some are saying they are old, that’s really true but their (helicopters) parts and components are all brand new. Once they reach a certain time, the parts and even components are replaced,” Galang said in a radio interview.

    Galang said materiel factor or failure will be among the angles that will be looked into by Air Force investigators.

    Short of dismissing the environment factor, Galang said the weather was fine at the time of the incident.

    “We are not ruling out materiel factor in the conduct of the investigation. That is among the angles that we are going investigate,” said Galang.

    On reports that smoke was seen prior to the crash, Galang said he has no information on the matter “but that will be included in the conduct of the investigation to determine the cause of the incident.”

    Galang also assured the public that all aircraft of the Air Force, including the Huey helicopters, “undergo strict, regular, and redundant maintenance inspections before and after flight missions.”

    As part of standard operating procedure, Galang said all Huey helicopters of the Air Force have been ordered grounded, pending the result of the probe.

    Maj. Rodulfo Cordero, spokesman of the Army’s 4th Infantry Division based in Cagayan de Oro City, identified the fatalities as Lt. Col. Arnie Arroyo and 2Lt. Mark Anthony Caabay, the pilot-in-command and co-pilot, respectively, of the ill-fated helicopter; Sgt. Mervin Bersabe and Airman 1st Class Stephen Agarrado, Army Sgt. Julius Salvador, and Jerry Ayucdo and Jhamel Sugalang, both Cafgus or militiamen.

    Cordero said the helicopter crashed in Barangay Bulonay at around 2:30 p.m., killing all the seven personnel onboard. Cordero said aircraft, coming from the headquarters of the Army’s 403rd Brigade in Malaybalay City, was en route to deliver supplies to a detachment of the Army’s 8th Infantry Battalion in the mountainous part of Impasugong town.

    “It encountered engine trouble. It attempted to make an emergency landing but it wasn’t able to land properly. It crashed in Barangay Bulonay, Impasugong, Bukidnon. It was a total wrecked but I cannot say if it was burnt,” Cordero said.

    Communications Secretary Martin Andanar said people should draw inspiration from the sacrifices and dedication of soldiers who perished during a helicopter crash in Bukidnon.

    “We are saddened by the helicopter crash involving our Philippine Air Force personnel while resupplying troops to counteract communist rebels in Bukidnon… With this, we extend our deepest sympathies and condolences to the family and loved ones of our fallen heroes… Our thoughts and prayers go out to their families in this time of grief,” Andanar said. – With Jocelyn Montemayor