MANILA, Philippines — The military transport plane that crashed in Sulu on Sunday and killed 50 people, including 47 soldiers, was in excellent condition, the Armed Forces of the Philippines said Monday.
“The aircraft is in tip-top shape. It’s not brand new but [it was] in a very good condition,” Major Gen. Edgard Arevalo, AFP spokesperson, said in a press briefing.
He said the C-130 plane had 11,000 flying hours remaining before its next maintenance was due.
Forty-seven military personnel and three civilians died when the plane crashed in Sitio Amman, Barangay Bangkal in Patikul town and burst into flames in one of the country’s worst military air disasters. The aircraft overshot the runway while trying to land at the airfield in Jolo.
Most of the passengers of the plane had recently graduated from basic military training and were being deployed for counter-insurgency operations in the restive island.
The incident also left 49 soldiers and four civilians injured.
Arevalo added the pilots of the plane were all “rated, seasoned and experienced.”
Acquired from US in January
The plane, with tail number 5125, was acquired from the United States and delivered to the Philippines in January this year.
According to a statement from the Department of National Defense earlier this year, the plane was one of the “two C-130H aircraft granted by the US government through the Security Cooperation Assistance.”
The plane first flew in 1988, according to a website that tracks C-130s worldwide.
One operational C-130 aircraft will be grounded following the crash. Two other C-130s are undergoing maintenance overseas.
C-130s have been the workhorses of the Philippine Air Force for decades. The aircraft has been used to transport troops and supplies, and to deliver humanitarian assistance and disaster relief.
In a statement, Sen. Ronald Dela Rosa — a former police chief — said he is waiting for the results of the military's investigation into the crash "before I lay the blame on our antiquated military aircrafts."
He also said it is time for lawmakers to "take a second hard look at the reality that lives lost from these so-called ‘flying coffins’ or ‘widow makers’ are priceless compared to the foreign debt that we may incur as a result of military modernization."
Sens. Grace Poe, Francis Pangilinan and Risa Hontiveros have also called for a probe into the crash.
"As they risk their lives in performing their tasks, our soldiers deserve better equipment and hardware to make every [flight] safe," Pangilinan said.
Poe urged government "to put in place measures to make our military planes safe."
Hontiveros said that "[c]onsidering this is the second plane crash in two weeks, [it] is a disservice to our armed services if we leave them vulnerable in battle."
The Sulu crash followed a training mishap in late June where a Black Hawk helicopter crashed during a night flight, killing six people on board.
Search for ‘black box’
Authorities were searching for the flight data recorder or “black box” of C-130 plane to shed light on the fatal crash.
“We have already cordoned the area to ensure the integrity of the pieces of evidence and other material or objects that could help us determine what exactly transpired in this particular tragic incident,” Arevalo said.
The commander of the air mobility command and airlift wing of the Philippine Air Force are also in Jolo to gather more information about the crash. —