MANILA (PNA) -- The decision to fly selected media personnel aboard the UH-ID "Huey" combat utility helicopters was aimed at disproving allegations that the aircraft are not airworthy and mission capable.
This was stressed by Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin Tuesday morning.
Seven UH-IDs, two UH-IHs along with their pilots and crew were deployed to Camp Aguinaldo, Quezon City to disapprove allegations that the aircraft is defective.
Selected members of the media were flown aboard a UH-ID and UH-IH which took off from Camp Aguinaldo at 11:07 a.m. and made a short flight to San Mateo, Rizal.
The aircraft and its passengers arrived at the military base at 11:46 a.m. safe and sound.
"(The flight demonstration and briefing) aims to correct allegations coming out in the media (that the UH-IDs) are defective and not flyable. We thought it prudent to bring the helicopters here and let the media know about their capabilities and difference from the UH-IHs," Gazmin said in Filipino.
He added that UH-IDs are very safe and capable as he was able to fly it many times without encountering any untoward incident.
The Defense chief also denied claims that he and other officials were asking for 15 percent commission for the UH-ID project.
"Those are all lies," he stressed.
The acquisition for the 21 UH-IDs, which is worth Php1.26 billion, have been wracked in controversy after claims of bidding irregularities and the aircraft being defective.
It was partially terminated last March 25 after suppliers Rice Aircraft Services Inc. and Eagle Copters Ltd. failed to deliver the rest of the aircraft.
"In compliance with Section 88, Rule XXII of the IRR of RA 9184 (Philippine Procurement Law), the contract agreement between the DND/AFP (Armed Forces of the Philippines) and the Joint Venture of Rice Aircraft Services, Inc. and Eagle Copters Ltd. for the supply and delivery of 21 UH-I helicopters for the PAF with corresponding contract price of Php1,263,000,000 shall be partially terminated for exceeding the 10 percent maximum liquidated damages," the DND order signed by Gazmin said.
There are 20 UH-IH and seven UH-1Ds at the Air Force inventory as of this time.
"Both aircraft have the top speed of 124 KIAS (knot indicated airspeed) but when you are flying UH-IH model, you can feel the aircraft starting to shake or shiver when you are approaching speeds up to 82 to 90 knots. But in the UH-ID, you can feel no vibration and even if you are cruising at speed of 110 KIAS," said Major Aristides Galang, 210th Tactical Squadron operations officer and the test pilot involved in the acceptance test of UH-IDs.
"It (UH-ID) also climbs very fast compared to the UH-IH," the PAF official pointed out.
Galang, who has 1,900 flying hours to his credit, also stressed that during acceptance tests of the aircraft, either the UH-ID performs up to standard, as specified in the PAF checklist, or it will not be accepted for service until.
During the so-called "maintenance test flights" (which are done during the pre-acceptance phase), all forms of maneuvers, are conducted to ensure that the aircraft has no major discrepancy which could cause it to fail or crash while in PAF service.
This includes air and ground handling and various emergency procedures, the pilot said.
On claims that major discrepancies were encountered during initial tests of the aircraft, Galang said this is only natural as all aircraft are prone to wear-and-tear while flying.
Galang said the same holds true for all aircraft in every Air Force in the world and dealing with such discrepancies is the job of maintenance crews and officers.
PAF spokesman Col. Enrico Canaya earlier said the "D" designation in the UH-1 means that it was manufactured by Dornier, a German aircraft manufacturer that started construction of the UH-1 during 1967 to 1981.
Around 350 units were build by the German aircraft manufacturer.
Canaya said that all seven UH-IDs are deployed to Central Luzon and Manila PAF units.
"The PAF, however, opted to deploy these newly turned over units to Central Luzon and Manila areas for endurance flights, training and other missions to make it accessible to technical representatives and take advantage of warranty claims," he added.
The PAF spokesman also clarified that the UH-1Ds and UH-IHs, still in Philippine service, are similar models but made by different manufacturers.
"Their airframes are old but once they are refurbished and maintenance manuals they are reliable to perform missions. The PAF has a wealth of experience operating and maintaining UH-1 helicopters since the 1970s," he added.
Canaya also dismissed reports that UH-1D spare parts are no longer available in the market.
"Their parts are not obsolete and available in the market just like the parts for the existing fleets of UH-1Hs the PAF is currently maintaining. The UH-1H helicopters are still widely use in other countries," he added.
Canaya also said that the PAF does not accept aircraft with technical issues.
"The PAF only receives and operates units that passed the Technical Inspection And Acceptance Committee," he pointed out.
The PAF spokesman stated that the newly arrived UH-IDs are more superior to the UH-1Hs as it features composite main rotor blades which have a better performance and safety feature that the latter aircraft.