Light plane goes missing in Isabela
CAUAYAN CITY — A Cessna plane with two persons on board went missing shortly after taking off from Cauayan Domestic Airport here on Thursday morning, again raising concerns about the safety standards and protocols for similar general aviation aircraft.
It was the fourth Cessna plane to have been reported missing in Luzon this year. The previous three were eventually found wrecked and with no survivors, records from aviation authorities showed.
Thursday’s incident involved a light plane serving as an air taxi (tail number RP-C1234) and was piloted by Capt. Levy Abul II, according to Capt. Eduard Caballero, chief of Cauayan airport police.
A still unidentified passenger was also on board the aircraft, Caballero said.
The plane took off from the Cauayan airport at 9:39 a.m. and lost communication with the airport tower several minutes later.
It was expected to arrive after 25 minutes at the Palanan airport in Palanan, Isabela, about 70 kilometers from the Cauayan airport, but Caballero said the aircraft did not land on schedule and remained missing as of Thursday afternoon.
No information was immediately available as to the exact location where the plane went off the radar.
Isabela and a large part of the Cagayan Valley region have been experiencing torrential rains since Wednesday due to the prevailing northeast monsoon, or “amihan.”
But Cauayan airport officials had yet to determine if the poor weather condition was a possible factor in the plane’s disappearance.
Teams of emergency responders had been deployed to search for the missing plane and its two occupants.
Past air accidents
On Aug. 1, an Echo Air Cessna 152 that was carrying flight instructor Capt. Edzel John Lumbao Tabuzo and his student pilot, Anshum Rajkumar Konde, an Indian national, crashed in a forest in Apayao province while on flight training.
The wreckage of the aircraft and the bodies of the pilots were recovered from the crash site within the boundaries of Barangay Salvacion in Luna town and Barangay San Mariano in Pudtol town the following day.
In Bicol, four people, including two Australians, died when a Cessna RPC340 carrying them crashed on Mayon Volcano on Feb. 18, just minutes after it took off from the Bicol International Airport in Daraga, Albay.
The fatalities were long-time employees and technical assistants of the Energy Development Corp., the largest geothermal energy producer in the Philippines, and were heading back to Metro Manila after a plant visit.
On Jan. 24, a Gen AV Cessna 206 plane, with six people on board, went missing shortly after departing from Cauayan Domestic Airport. It was expected to arrive at 3 p.m. that day at Maconacon airport, some 60 km away, but it did not reach its destination.
After more than a month of searching, the plane’s wreckage was discovered in the forests of Barangay Ditarum in Isabela’s Divilacan town. The pilot and all five passengers did not survive the crash.
With three previous air disasters taking place in Luzon involving Cessna planes since January this year, some passengers have raised concerns about the aviation safety and reliability of these single-engine aircraft.
“Some of these planes are decades-old already. Every time we travel on this kind of plane, we’re risking our lives. It is so hard for us, who usually travel by plane from our coastal area, to submit reports and attend meetings … on the mainland,” said Maria Teresa Oriarte, a government employee in Maconacon.
The Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (Caap) has been checking small planes, aviation facilities, and other amenities of airline companies plying routes in northern Luzon, said Marlyn Sagursor, Caap North Luzon manager, in an earlier interview. —VILLAMOR VISAYA JR.