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After 14 years, PAF resumes pilot training at Baguio airport

RITUAL. New pilots fall down and kiss the runway of the Loakan Airport in Baguio City as part of a ritual on Tuesday (Oct. 22). Pilots who land for the first time in a strange area must undergo this tradition. INQUIRER PHOTO/ EV Espiritu

Updated @ 11:29 p.m., Oct. 23, 2019

BAGUIO CITY, Philippines — Eighteen planes landed at the Loakan Airport on Tuesday, piloted by Philippine Air Force (PAF) personnel being trained in aerial maneuvers.

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On Wednesday, the pilots executed flight exercises over the Philippine Military Academy before heading back to Batangas province, where they are based.

Before they left, one of the PAF officials wished they could make the Baguio airport their permanent training ground.

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PAF trainees stopped using the airfield, which was built in 1934, after a fatal accident in 2005.

Badly needing upgraded air traffic equipment and an extended runway, the Loakan Airport lost commercial flights that used to serve the Manila-Baguio route.

Planes were allowed to fly before rain poured and fog covered the mountain city in the afternoon, making flights unprofitable.

Air Force work crew stationed at the Loakan Airport in Baguio City prepare to refuel 19 small planes which were used to train new pilots on Tuesday (Oct. 22). The Air Force resumed pilot training in this mountain city, 14 years after an accident that led to the deaths of 4 pilot trainees. INQUIRER PHOTO/ EV Espiritu

Decommissioned

The airport was almost decommissioned during the term of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, who tinkered with the idea of using the area to expand the nearby export processing zone.

But transport officials are keen once more on investing in airport modernization, now that the airline industry again finds Loakan a lucrative proposition, according to Mayor Benjamin Magalong.

He said the Philippine Airlines was prepared to resume flights to and from Baguio, using planes suited for the mountain terrain at Loakan.

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Another airline also planned a Cebu-Baguio flight, he said, adding that the airport modernization would need to be sped up.

2nd Lt. Frances Xandra Aquinde was one of the pilots trained on Tuesday (Oct. 22) when the Air Force resumed its pilot training course at Loakan Airport in Baguio City. INQUIRER PHOTO/ EV Espiritu

Upgrade needed

The runway’s drains need upgrading to prevent flooding in the area, Barangay Loakan officials said.

According to Lt. Col. Allan Macatingrao, commander of PAF Tactical Operations Group 1, pilots appreciate Baguio’s terrain because the altitude and the strong wind help hone their skills.

The 18 trainer planes landed at Loakan for the first time since 2005 when a T-41 military aircraft crashed in Itogon town, Benguet province, after lifting off from the airport. All four occupants of the plane were killed.

Training was transferred here due to strong rains along the navigational route in Cebu and Palawan provinces, said Brig. Gen. Ferdinand Cartujano, commander of the PAF’s Air Education, Training and Doctrine Command.

Cartujano said 18 military training aircraft, 10 T-41D planes and eight SF-260 planes were used to train 54 student pilots who graduated from the PMA and from the PAF Flying School.

Following a PAF ritual, the 18 pilots who landed at Loakan on Tuesday kissed the ground.

/lzb /pdi

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TAGS: Baguio airport, Loakan airport, Military Pilot Training, Philippine Air Force
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