PAF S-211 training aircraft (photo : Boomstick54)
CLARK FREEPORT, Philippines – The Philippine Air Force (PAF) yesterday grounded all five of its remaining operational S-211 training jets following the crash that killed two officers in Bagac, Bataan on Thursday.
The ill-fated aircraft was one of the six S-211 trainer jets that the were operational from the total of 25 such aircraft the PAF purchased since the 1990s.
Of the total number, 15 were locally assembled by the Philippine Aerospace Development Corp. (Aerospace) based here.
PAF records showed that other accidents involving S-211 jets have occurred in recent years.
In July last year, another such aircraft belonging to the Air Defense Wing’s 7th Tactical Fighter Squadron based here also crashed in Concepcion, Tarlac, but its pilot and co-pilot were able to eject safely.
In 2002, another S-211 jet of the PAF crashed due to mechanical failure, killing five people, including the pilot and his co-pilot, in Barangay Garcia in Cabanatuan City where 15 houses were also destroyed. The aircraft was reported to be on proficiency flight.
Air Force spokesman Lt. Col. Miguel Okol said the PAF has already extended condolences to the families of Capt. Raymond de Leon and Maj. Ephraim Suyom who died in the crash last Thursday.
Their trainer jet crashed off the shores of Stella Maris resort in Barangay Banawang in Bagac, Bataan.
The body of Suyom was retrieved by local police and village folk soon after the crash, while the remains of De Leon were retrieved by Coast Guard divers later in the evening.
Bataan provincial police director Senior Superintendent Arnold Gunnacao said the Scene of the Crime Operations (SOCO) would help in the identification of the two bodies.
He said the bodies of the two victims were shattered due to the impact of the explosion.
The plane took off from here at about 2:15 p.m. and subsequently lost contact with air traffic controllers. The pilots were based at Basa Air Base in Floridablanca, Pampanga.
Okol described De Leon as “a combat ready pilot,” adding that Suyom was an instructor pilot for S-211 aircraft.
“PAF chief Lt. Gen. Oscar Rabena has ensured that a thorough investigation of the crash will take place,” Okol said.
He also said Rabena has vowed “to look after the families left behind by the fighter pilots.”
Okol said the remaining five other still functioning S-211 trainer jets of the Air Force would remain grounded until the cause of last Thursday’s accident is known.
He said the aircraft has been with the PAF since 1991.