Helicopter among ‘defective’ aircraft delivered to air force
Nine people were hurt after a Philippine Air Force (PAF) helicopter crash-landed in Sarangani Province on Saturday morning.
Capt. Alberto Caber, spokesman of the military’s Eastern Mindanao Command, said the UH-1D helicopter crash-landed in Sitio Lamsalo in Barangay Upper Suyan in Malapatan town at around 9:40 a.m.
He said strong winds caused the crash.
The aircraft was among the 21 combat utility helicopters in the controversial P1.2-billion modernization project, which The Manila Times exposed early this year as allegedly anomalous. The Times source — Rhodora Alvarez, who was initially code-named “Joey” — claimed that the helicopters were defective. The project’s specifications, which she said initially called for the acquisition of the UH-1H variant, was amended to allow the supplier, Rice Aircraft Services Inc. and Eagle Copters, to deal the UH-1Ds whose original manufacturer had long closed shop. Alvarez is now under the protective custody of the Department of Justice.
The Department of National Defense scuttled the deal just as the Senate was to pass a resolution calling for a congressional inquiry on the project, but went on to accept the delivery of seven units.
The military said the helicopter was transporting the remains of a soldier as well as five other soldiers from the Army’s 73rd Infantry Battalion who were wounded in a clash with New People’s Army rebels when strong winds buffeted the aircraft as it was about to land. Two of the helicopter’s pilots and two crew members were also injured.
“There were prevailing strong winds when the said helicopter was landing. The nine personnel -pilots, crew and soldiers – onboard the helicopter suffered slight injuries and were already secured,” Caber said.
Caber added that the helicopter was wrecked.
Commander Lt. Gen. Aurelio B. Baladad, commander of the Eastmincom, ordered the dispatch of additional helicopters to continue the evacuation mission.
“Ongoing, ongoing kasi may wounded din kami dun so… yung wounded namin sa encounter plus yun nga yung nag-crash na helicopter yun ang ineevacuate namin, may mga naevacuate na pero meron pang naiwan dun,” Baladad said in a phone patch with reporters in the miltary’s main headquarters in Camp Aguinaldo in Quezon City.
Tencounter between government troops and an unknown number of NPA rebels took place on Thursday and lasted until Friday.