15 September 2010
MANILA, Philippines — The entire fleet of Philippine Air Force (PAF) UH-1H “Huey” helicopters has been grounded by PAF chief Lt. Gen. Oscar Rabena following the incident last Friday wherein one of their choppers was engulfed in flames after making an emergency landing in Ilocos Norte.
This was revealed on Saturday by PAF spokesperson Lt. Col. Migue Okol who said the entire “Huey” fleet will remain grounded until investigators determine the cause of the fire.
According to Okol, the PAF Huey helicopter with tail number 330 was on a resupply mission in support of the 503rd Army Infantry Brigade and was ferrying several soldiers when the incident happened.
While enroute, Capt. John Gador and Lt. Edbert Ngina experienced engine problems and were forced to make a precautionary landing in an open field in Barangay Nagrebcan.
After safely touching down with all the passengers and crew out of the aircraft, a fire reportedly developed inside the engine bay which became too big for the crew to put out with their fire extinguishers.
With the aircraft still fully loaded with fuel, the fire spread to the fuel tanks causing the fire to engulf the entire aircraft.
The Huey chopper was left in a total state of disrepair.
The UH-1H helicopter is the PAF’s workhorse used in combat, troop transport, rescue, and re-supply missions. With the latest incident, the PAF is now left with just about 40 Huey helicopters.
Meanwhile, the PAF is anticipating the delivery of eight brand-new utility helicopters from Poland to replace their aging fleet of UH-1H’s.
According to Okol, they expect the delivery of the combat utility helicopters from PZL Swidnik Company of Poland by the first quarter of 2011.
Okol disclosed that the Swienik helicopter can carry 14 persons, including the pilot and co-pilot, and has a maximum speed of 260 kph with a range of 745 km, non-stop. The Sweinik can climb to an altitude of 19,680 feet, which is more than twice the height that the Huey can climb.