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6 killed as Black Hawk helicopter crashes in Tarlac



CAPAS, Tarlac – A Sikorsky S-70i Black Hawk utility helicopter crashed near the vicinity of this town on Wednesday night, killing all six of those on board.

According to the statement made by the Philippine Air Force (PAF) on Thursday, the Black Hawk helicopter of the 205th Tactical Helicopter Wing was on a night flight training when it experienced a mishap a few miles from Colonel Ernesto Rabina Airbase here.

PAF spokesman Lt. Col. Maynard Mariano declined to name those on board the ill-fated helicopter, for now, saying their families have yet to be informed of the incident.

He said, however, that one pilot had the rank of lieutenant colonel and two were ranked major, while the crew were a master sergeant, technical sergeant, and sergeant.

Search, retrieval, and recovery operations at the crash site, just a few miles from Col. Ernesto Rabina Air Base, are still underway as of Thursday morning, he said.

According to Mariano, the helicopter was earlier reported to be late for its estimated time of return to its station at Clark Air Base in Pampanga, and that prompted a search.

The chopper took off for the training around 8:00 p.m., and had yet to return as of 10:00 p.m., Mariano told reporters.

It was eventually found at an area within the military’s gunnery range in Crow Valley, he said.

The PAF said that night flight proficiency trainings are part of the capabilities of the pilot and crew to assist frontline units in missions.

Although with inherent risks, this competency is vital and necessary for the transport and logistics requirements of Unified Commands.

As of press time, the PAF is conducting an ongoing search and retrieval operation of the said aircraft.

The ill-fated helicopter was among the first batch of six helicopters delivered from Poland last November, he said.

“We grieve for the loss. The PAF will conduct a thorough inquiry to determine the circumstances of this unfortunate incident,” Mariano said.

All the other Black Hawks were grounded until the investigation is concluded, he added.

The Air Force currently has 11 Black Hawks in its inventory. The second batch of five units was delivered last June 7, but these have yet to be formally received.

The Philippines acquired 16 Blackhawks from Polskie Zaklady Lotnicze Sp.z.o.o for U$ 241.461 million, or about P11.6 billion, through a government-to-government transaction with Poland.

The third batch, also composed of five helicopters, is scheduled to be delivered before yearend.

Wednesday night’s crash and the grounding of Black Hawks came while PAF’s UH-1 “Huey” units, which make up most of the force’s combat utility helicopters, remain grounded.

Earlier this month, Huey units were flown back to the nearest PAF bases, after the military leadership gave them a one-time flight approval so they can be properly stored.

Hueys were grounded following a crash that left seven persons dead in Impasug-ong, Bukidnon, last January 16.

Mariano said that with the grounding of both the Huey and Black Hawk fleets, the PAF will have to rely on “a handful” of Bell-412 and Sokol helicopters for combat-utility missions.