PAF grounds Sikorsky choppers after Basilan crash

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DAVAO CITY – The Philippine Air Force (PAF) grounded all its Sikorsky S-76A rescue helicopters for “prompt maintenance inspection” after one of its units crashed in Basilan province killing four passengers on Wednesday afternoon, September 16.

The Philippine News Agency in a report stated that PAF spokesperson Lt. Col. Aristides Galang has ordered a team to investigate the accident.

According to Galang, pending investigation, all PAF aircraft in service must undergo strict maintenance before it will be deployed for a mission though he said S-76A is a tough and dependable brand.

The Air Force investigation include weather condition, environment, and the human factor, as among the cause of the crash.

The ill-fated S-76A helicopter with tail number 202 belong to their 505th Search-and-Rescue Group and was deployed for a medical evacuation mission in Jolo and took off around 12:33 p.m. The aircraft was based at Edwin Andrews Air Base in Zamboanga City.

But at around 1:24 p.m., the PAF received reports of a crashed helicopter in the vicinity of Barangay Upper Manggas, Lantawan, Basilan.

Killed in the accident were Maj. Jessie Miller, the pilot in command, 1Lt. Mack-Ar Ferrer, co-pilot, S/Sgt. Miguel Bañas Jr. and Airman 2nd Class Benedicto Leal Jr.

“The men and women of the Philippine Air Force, led by its Commanding General, Lt. Gen. Allen T. Paredes, is greatly saddened with the loss of our four gallant airmen and extends its greatest sympathies and condolences to the bereaved families. The PAF will be giving necessary assistance to the bereaved families,” he said.

He added that the bodies of the four fallen crewmen were retrieved and immediately ferried from Basilan to Zamboanga City. -with PNA report

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