Rescuers scour Sierra Madre for missing plane
CAUAYAN CITY — Search and rescue teams have begun scouring the forests at the foot of the Sierra Madre mountain ranges in Palanan town, Isabela province, to locate a light plane that went missing shortly after departing from the Cauayan Domestic Airport in this city on Thursday morning.
According to Glenn Cabaldo, Palanan municipal disaster risk reduction and management officer, a team from local emergency response groups was deployed to Sitio (subvillage) Dipadsangan in Barangay Didian on Friday, in search of a Piper PA-32-300 type of aircraft (registry number RP-C1234), with two persons on board. Also part of the search area is Barangay Casala in San Mariano town, near the border with Palanan.
In an interview, Cabaldo said residents in the area reported hearing a loud crashing sound in the forest on Thursday and immediately reported it to authorities.
“But nothing has been confirmed yet, and there’s no definite information on the whereabouts of the missing plane,” Cabaldo said.
He said the rescue teams were organized by the Palanan town police, the Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP), the Philippine Army, and other volunteers from different villages in Palanan.
“We’ve prepared all necessary facilities, equipment, and provisions to sustain our rescue teams,” Cabaldo said, noting that they would sweep through the thick forests and rough terrain of the Sierra Madre.
In an advisory on Friday, the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (Caap) said the three-seat plane went off radar minutes after taking off from the Cauayan airport at 9:39 a.m. on Thursday.
The aircraft, owned by Fliteline Airways and operated by Cyclone Airways, was supposed to land at Palanan Airport, some 70 kilometers away, at 10:23 a.m. On board were the pilot and a lone passenger.
In a separate report, Caap said the last communication of the aircraft with the Cauayan tower was around 9:50 a.m. that day.“Its last known position was the last blip from the aircraft as captured by Flight Radar 24, which is about 29.09 nautical miles (53 km) east of Cauayan airport at 10 a.m.,” it said.
Caap Operations Center (OpCen) and Philippine Aeronautical Rescue Coordination Center (Parcc) convened with the incident group held at the Philippine Air Force (PAF) Tactical Operations Group 2 (TOG2) Headquarters in Cauayan City at 9 a.m. on Friday.
According to Col. Glenn Piquero, head of TOG2, search and rescue operations will start on the last recorded position of RP-C1234 based on the Flight Radar 24 footage provided by the Caap OpCen and Parcc.
A search and rescue team consisting of 32 police personnel was already conducting an investigation in the mountainous Barangay Casala in San Mariano—around 40 km east of Cauayan airport—while en route to the possible location of the plane.
No emergency locator transmitter (ELT) distress alert has been received by Parcc from the missing aircraft.
But a distress message (code word DETRESFA—which signifies an emergency situation wherein there is a reasonable certainty that an aircraft and its occupants are threatened by grave and imminent danger and require immediate assistance) was received by the Caap Operations Center from the Cauayan tower at 11:08 a.m.
Caap investigators from the Aircraft Accident and Inquiry Investigation Board, headed by Romel Ronda and Harry Paradero, arrived here on Friday to lead the investigation.
Marlyn Sagorsor, Caap North Luzon manager, said a command center was set up in Palanan to help speed up the search for the plane.
Rescue teams from Divilacan towns and the PAF are on standby and waiting for instructions and good weather to proceed.
The municipal government of Maconacon also instructed barangay officials and local fishermen to relay any information that would help in the search.
Isabela and the rest of the Cagayan Valley region have been experiencing bad weather since Wednesday due to the northeast monsoon rains but authorities have yet to determine if the heavy downpour in Isabela was a factor that led to the disappearance of the aircraft.