PH Air Force opens up on another accident: Tucano plane damaged in routine flight
MANILA, Philippines—One of the Philippine Air Force’s (PAF) brand new attack aircraft was damaged during a routine flight and is currently non-operational.
The plane, an A-29B Super Tucano, was being flown by a Brazilian pilot of the plane manufacturer Embraer for equipment check. The wing commander of the PAF’s 15th Strike Wing was aboard as passenger.
“The Brazilian instructor pilot had full control of the aircraft and responsibility for the flight,” the PAF said in a statement posted on Facebook late on Thursday (July 8).
It said the commander of the 15th Strike Wing, the PAF unit in charge of supporting ground attacks, “was just a mere passenger observing the performance and flight characteristics of the aircraft.”
The PAF said the Brazilian pilot failed to “initiate a go-around and prevent a positive landing.” This was jargon for failure to land properly.
The PAF, however, did not say when the accident happened but said damage to the plane was repairable.
The plane, according to the PAF, will be put back in service the “soonest possible time” with repair costs shouldered by Embraer, a condition in the purchase contract between the Philippine government and the Brazilian aircraft maker.
Parts are ready for shipment to the Philippines and aircraft mechanics are to fly here for the repair work, the PAF said.
“Embraer considered the event a minor flight incident that normally happens during flights,” it said.
“Further, per contract, Embraer will assume full responsibility for the aircraft throughout the duration of the training period,” the PAF said.
Six units of A-29B Super Tucano, worth P4.698 billion, were commissioned into service late in 2020. These were meant to provide close air support to the military’s counterinsurgency missions.
The revelation of the accident came amid a series of PAF plane crashes this year, which killed at least 66 people. The C-130 plane crash in Sulu on July 4 was the deadliest in recent Philippine military history with 52 dead and dozens injured.
But the PAF maintained it has improved safety protocol since 2020.
Social media leak
The accident involving the Tucano came to light as PAF addressed the allegations of MaxDefense Philippines, a Philippine blogsite known for its insider information on military modernization and often used by international defense media as reference.
MaxDefense on Wednesday (July 8) alleged that “a high-ranking PAF unit commander used his rank and position to gain access and fly one of the PAF’s newest aircraft.” The PAF officer failed to land it safely, which led to aircraft damage and “may need millions of pesos of funding to replace damaged parts and conduct repairs.”
The blogsite did not mention the rank and unit of the officer nor the aircraft. But the PAF released a statement in an attempt to correct the “several information that are deemed to be inaccurate.”
The PAF also rejected claims that it tried to hide what happened. “The PAF leadership immediately informed the DND and AFP (Department of National Defense and Armed Forces of the Philippines) of the incident on the same day. It was never hidden,” it said.
PAF spokesperson Lt. Col. Maynard Mariano said the PAF also wanted to clear the “allegations and assumptions” of some netizens in the comments section of MaxDefense’s post.
“The thread on the site are mentioning names and aircraft, making allegations and assumptions,” Mariano told INQUIRER.net.
“We can’t let that happen to snowball (sic) that news like that are not true, going around about the Air Force. We gave them what they wanted and that is transparency,” he said.
On the same day the PAF issued the statement, the 15th Strike Wing welcomed its new commander, Brig. Gen. Aristotle Gonzalez, who replaced Brig. Gen. Araus Robert Musico, the officer supposedly involved in the Tucano accident.
An appointment letter signed by President Rodrigo Duterte last June 28 showed that Musico is being moved as commander of the Tactical Operations Wing Northern Luzon.
Mariano said the change of leadership had nothing to do with the Tucano accident. “This has long been scheduled,” he said.
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