CAAP ready to assist Malaysia in crash probe

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Aircraft accident investigators of the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP) are ready to fly to Malaysia to assist the Malaysian government in determining the cause of the crash of the Philippine-registered aircraft in Sarawak last Thursday.

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CAAP deputy director-general Rodante Joya said that the team will fly anytime to provide the aircraft airworthiness documents as well as certification of the pilot’s flying records to Malaysian authorities.

“The chief investigators in the crash of RP-C6828 rest in the hands of the Malaysian authorities but of course, they would need the records of the airplane and the pilot to assist them in determining the cause of the accident,” Joya explained.

He added that the CAAP-Aircraft Accident Investigation Board (AAIB) are on standby to fly to Kuala Lumpur on a moment’s notice to lend their expertise on why the helicopter AS350B, piloted by Capt. Rudol Rex Raagas had initially gone missing before it was found to have crashed while on their way to Kuching hours after taking off from Betong, Sarawak.

The aviation regulator on Saturday confirmed that the chopper is registered to a Philippine company based in Cebu. The chopper was operated by CGA Skyline Aviation Incorporated. It was founded in 2013 by Skyline Aviation, and provides rental and charter services for corporate clients and tourists, as well as aerial surveys and medical evacuations.

The Eurocopter AS350 Ecuruil, with stop speed of 190 mph, is a single-engine light helicopter originally designed and manufactured in France by Aerospatiale. In North America, the AS350 is marketed as the AStar.

According to CAAP spokesman Eric Apolonio, the Sarawak Search and Rescue team found on Friday a body still strapped to a seat, 10 kilometers from the center of the search and rescue area. The body was confirmed to be Malaysian Plantation Industries and Commodities Ministry Secretary General Datuk Dr. Sundaran Annamalai.

Another body was found in Lingga and was brought to the Sarawak General Hospital for identification. The third body was identified as Ahmad Sobri Harum, a bodyguard of Datuk Noriah Kasnon.

The CAAP said that search and rescue operations for the three remaining passengers, including the Filipino pilot, are still ongoing.

Raagas, the CAAP said, was Skyline Aviation’s pilot with nearly 30 years of flight experience having flown in the Philippines and French Polynesia and had trained in the United States and Singapore. He had some 7,500 flying hours under his belt.

BENJIE L. VERGARA

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