Ace pilot comes home
Capt.Jessup Bahinting finally arrived home in Cebu yesterday.
His widow Margarita burst into tears when the body bag containing the pilot’s body emerged from the Beechcraft Baron 55, accompanied by their youngest daughter, Sarah Lynn.
The plane owned by Cheyn Air touched down 8 a.m. in the Aviatour Air hangar in Mactan.
About 200 flight students, pilots and instructors gathered at the hangar to join the sad welcome party.
Some wept openly, including the couple’s fellow members of the Christian congregation Grace Communion International.
Later in the mortuary, Margarita expressed her dismay over media reports quoting security chief Voltaire Gazmin saying the Cebu-based pilot was found in the right side of the plane, traditionally the seat assigned for the co-pilot, when their Piper Seneca was spotted about 180 feet below the sea off Masbate City.
Margarita said the report was erroneous because her husband was the main pilot seated in the left. She didn’t want it misconstrued that Capt. Bahinting had let his young Nepalese co-pilot Kshitz Chand handle the flight.
A sealed “eternal blue” casket with two framed photos of Capt. Bahinting occupy St. Matthew Hall for the vigil in St. Peter Life Funeral Homes in Imus Street (not Cosmopolitan Funeral Homes as reported here yesterday.)
After a three-day vigil, the pilot’s remains will be brought on Sunday morning to the family’s beach resort in Ginatilan town.
The funeral is tentatively set for Monday.
Citom chief Sylvan Jakosalem said light planes will do an aerial drop of flowers and a fly-by as a salute on Sunday, just as the pilot’s remains are brought to Ginatilan.
“This will be Cebu’s aviation tribute to their fallen brother who was a hero”, Jakosalem said.
A Mass at noon today will be offered by Cebu Archbishop Jose Palma at the Metropolitan Cebu Cathedral for Secretary Jesse Robredo, Bahinting and his Nepalese co-pilot.
In the vigil on Saturday, the Cebu City government will confer a “Lifesaver” award for Bahinting’s role in saving the life of a zoo keeper who was bitten by a King Cobra three days before the fatal plane crash.
Anti-venom shots were flown in from Camiguin province by a plane sent by Bahinting, who himself had flown several volunteer missions to ferry goods and victims of typhoons and other calamities.
Cebu City Mayor Michael Rama and the recovered zoo keeper Ronaldo “Ron-ron” Aventurado will hand the award to the pilot’s widow, said Jakosalem.
Remembering the ritual goodbye kiss her husband forgot to give her as he rushed to the Mactan airport last Saturday to pilot the aircraft for Secretary Robredo, Margarita said she missed giving a loving gaze: “I wanted to linger on his face.”
“He is a great loss not only to our family, our company, but also to our church and the communi ty,” she said, fighting back tears.
Aviatour, the flight school and chartered plane service Capt. Bahinting founded, voluntarily suspended operations immediately after the Saturday crash to give way to a government investigation.
The Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines announced the start of the probe on Wednesday. A suspension order on Aviatour’s operations soon followed.
The body of Nepalese co-pilot Chand arrived in Cebu around 3 p.m. on board a Cessna 182 plane and was also brought to St. Peters Funeral Homes.
Chand’s father Tek Bahadur and uncle Damand Chand who came all the way from Kathmandu were on the same flight.
The 21-year-old pilot was found floating near the crash site early morning Thursday by a fishing vessel. His remains will be flown to Kathmandu, Nepal.
The retrieval of Chand completed the five-day search and rescue operation which was spearheaded by the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine Coast Guard. Volunteer technical divers of different nationalities and local fishermen played important roles in the operations.
Capt. Bahinting, founder and CEO of Aviatour was a church pastor who was active in charity and mercy missions.
He flew patients from hinterland communities in the Visayas and Mindanao and volunteered for disaster relief work in the Ginsaugon, Leyte landslide in 2007, the Sendong floods in Cagayan de Oro and Iligan cities in December last year and the earthquake that badly hit Negros Oriental in January this year.
Margarita said that it was a consolation that the death of the pilot “glorified his life for his works, which were otherwise not on public awareness when he was alive.”
Jureidini told reporters that the investigation to be conducted by the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP) is just “normal.”
He assured the company’s full cooperation. He however said that they will appeal that their flying school will be exempted from the suspension as it would affect more than 100 students from different nationalities.
“It’s normal (for CAAP to conduct investigation) whether it’s a small or big airline in case of accidents.” said Jureidini.
Jureidini said the preventive suspension is “adherent” until such a time that their company will be able to prove to CAAP the “safety”./with Correspondent Gabriel C. Bonjoc