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PAF confirms crash of C-130 in Davao Gulf

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Fuselage believed found–official

By Joel Guinto
First Posted 07:45:00 08/26/2008

MANILA, Philippines — The Philippine Air Force (PAF) confirmed Tuesday afternoon that a C-130 with two pilots and seven crewmen that went missing shortly after takeoff Monday evening crashed into waters between Davao City and Samal Island in the south, the PAF commanding general said.

Human body parts, aircraft debris, and personal belongings, including the identity card of one of the crewmen, Sergeant Petronilo Fernandez, were recovered from the area, said PAF chief Lieutenant General Pedrito Cadungog.

“That’s it. No other C-130 aircraft was in the area,” Cadungog said in a phone interview. “We’re sure that it crashed.”

Early Tuesday evening, the officer leading search operations said Philippine Navy teams, using sonar, had pinpointed what is believed to be the fuselage of the aircraft.

The cylindrical silhouette, similar to the size and shape of a C-130, was found 2.5 nautical miles southwest of Samal Island sitting on the seabed 600 feet under the surface, Captain Rosauro Gonzales said in a phone interview.

Jet fuel on the sea surface in the area also raised hopes that it was the plane wreckage, he said, adding the slick could have minimal effects on the environment since the fuel evaporates quickly.

“We don’t have a visual yet. If was found using a sonar that could detect any sunken object. A cylindrical [shape was] reflected on the screen. It could probably be the crash [site],” he said.

Gonzales said personnel and equipment to search the wreck could be sourced from abroad given the military’s limited capability.

Cadungog said they are not discounting the possibility of sabotage by Moro rebels, although they will also be looking into pilot failure, and material or equipment failure.

“The Air Force has been in the limelight because of our air strikes [against] MILF lawless groups,” he said, noting there were no reports of maintenance problems with the C-130.

However, he said it was unlikely that the plane was shot down because rebel groups have no ammunition capable of hitting the plane from the ground while it is airborne.

Earlier, he quoted witnesses as saying they heard a loud explosion shortly after it took off.

A wheel and wheel strut from the plane’s landing gear were among the debris fished out of the sea, Cadungog said.

An investigating team, led by Colonel Manuel Morales, chief of the PAF air safety office, had been dispatched to the scene, he said.

The four-engine, American-made C-130 has no flight data recorder or “black box,” the PAF chief said.

The plane was declared missing after it lost radio contact a few minutes after takeoff from Davao City, en route to Iloilo City to pick up members of the Presidential Security Group. It was carrying two pilots and seven crewmen.

Cadungog said the last time a C-130 crashed was in 1994, when the aircraft slammed into a hill in the Bicol region in stormy weather.

The PAF has had the 37-year-old C-130 since 1983, Cadungog said.

The lone operational C-130 in the PAF’s aging fleet has been grounded for security inspection, he said.

The crash leaves only four C-130’s in the Air Force inventory, only one of which is operational.

One is undergoing maintenance, while two others are awaiting spare parts worth “millions” of pesos.

Major Gerry Zamudio Jr. of the PAF public information office said the crash could affect the military’s ability to transport troops and equipment amid a continuing offensive against the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

Fisherman Venerando Serafica Jr. said he saw the plane plunge around 9 p.m. Monday, around the time of the plane’s last contact with Davao City air traffic controllers.

The plane was piloted by Major Manuel Zambrano while his co-pilot was identified as Captain Adrian de Dios.

Cadungog said Zambrano has logged around 4,000 flying hours, his co-pilot has around 1,000 flying hours.

“Yun medyo pinagtatakahan namin [That is what we are wondering about]. We could not think of some lapses on the part of the pilot, that they were not able to control the aircraft,” Cadungog told a later news conference at Villamor Airbase.

Cadungog said the C-130 was already about 5,000 feet (1,524 meters) up in the air when it made its last call requesting clearance for a flight path.

The pilots asked to turn left shortly after takeoff, towards the direction of Cagayan de Oro City a minute after takeoff, but he said this was “very normal” since this was in its flight plan.

He also said that even without radio communication, the aircraft could have landed safely.

Cadungog noted that the aircraft was fitted with a new engine and an auxiliary power last August 15. It had flown for four hours from Manila to Fort Magsaysay to Davao before it went missing.

With reports from Tarra V. Quismundo, Joselle Badilla, Phil Daily Inquirer; AFP

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Written by joelguinto

TueUTC2008-08-26T10:07:39+00:00UTC08bUTCTue, 26 Aug 2008 10:07:39 +0000 22, 2006 at 12:45 am08

Posted in Uncategorized

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