2 pilots killed in Philippine Air Force training plane crash west of Manila

The plane was an SIAI-Marchetti SF260 TP trainer that was being operated by the air force’s 15th Strike Wing unit. PHOTO: PILAR MUNICIPAL POLICE STATION

MANILA – Two pilots were killed after a Philippine Air Force (PAF) training aircraft crashed on Wednesday morning on farmland in Pilar town, Bataan, a province 133km west of the capital Manila.

PAF spokesman Maria Consuelo Castillo said the plane was an SIAI-Marchetti SF260 TP trainer that was operated by the air force’s 15th Strike Wing unit.

A local police report identified the two pilots as Captain Ian Gerru Paulo and Captain John Paulo Aviso. No civilians were hurt in the incident.

The aircraft took off just before 10am local time from the PAF’s base at Sangley Point in Cavite province and crashed in Bataan at about 10.35am.

“We lost track of the plane more than 30 minutes into the flight,” Colonel Castillo said.

She described the SF260 TP as a highly manoeuvrable and fully aerobatic basic trainer aircraft that the PAF uses as a light attack combat plane. The PAF has used this plane in various combat missions, including the months-long battle between government troops and home-grown terrorists in Marawi City in southern Philippines in 2017.

The PAF’s SF260 TP fleet has been grounded for now, while an investigation is under way.

Colonel Castillo said the PAF has sent its condolences to the victims’ families. She also asked the public to refrain from spreading unconfirmed information about the plane crash.

“The PAF assures that all necessary aid, assistance and support will be provided to (the) bereaved families,” she said.

Since 2011, at least 16 military aircraft accidents have been recorded in the Philippines, including the Bataan plane crash on Wednesday.

In 2021, a military aircraft carrying troops bound for counter-insurgency operations crashed, killing 53 of the 96 onboard. It was the country’s worst military air accident in nearly three decades.

Wednesday’s PAF plane crash happened a day after a private six-seater Cessna plane carrying five passengers went missing in Isabela, a province north of Manila.

The single-engine plane had taken off from Cauayan airport on Tuesday on a route that would have taken it across the Sierra Madre mountain range to reach Maconacon town in Isabela, said Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines spokesman Eric Apolonio.

Last contact with the pilot was at 2.19pm, said Mr Apolonio. The plane was scheduled to reach its destination at 2.45pm, and when air traffic controllers did not hear back from the pilot 30 minutes after its expected arrival, they initiated contact with the aircraft but received no response.

Search and rescue operations for the private plane were temporarily halted due to poor weather on Wednesday.

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