By Karen Lema and Enrico Dela Cruz
MANILA (Reuters) – Philippine authorities on Monday ordered an investigation into the crash of an Air Force plane that flew over an airstrip, killing 47 soldiers on board, three civilians on the ground and injuring dozens.
Some Lockheed C-130 passengers jumped free seconds before the plane crashed and caught fire over the weekend, officials said, citing witnesses.
The aircraft, which was carrying newly graduated troops destined for counterinsurgency operations, was attempting to land at Jolo airport in the southern province of Sulu.
The 96 passengers on board were counted, with 49 soldiers wounded and four civilians on the ground, said the military spokesman, Major General Edgard Arévalo.
At a press conference, Arevalo said the plane was in “very good condition” and had 11,000 flight hours left before its next maintenance.
“We are determined to find out what really happened in this tragic incident, because according to the available information, the aircraft followed the specified protocols,” he said.
Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana ordered an investigation into the country’s worst military air disaster in nearly 30 years.
The military command said the soldiers were flying to Jolo provincial airport from Laguindingan, about 460 kilometers (290 miles) to the northeast, to be deployed to their battalions.
The army of the sprawling Philippine archipelago has been waging a long war in the area against Islamist militants from Abu Sayyaf and other factions.
There was no sign that the plane was shot down by insurgent fire, authorities said.
“We assure our people that we are transparent and that the results of the investigation (will be available) when it is completed,” added Arevalo, saying authorities were still searching for the flight recorders.
Jolo Airport has a 1,200-meter runway that generally takes civil turboprop flights, although occasionally some military flights, according to a Civil Aviation Authority of the
The Lockheed plane had recently arrived in the Philippines and was one of two provided by the US government through the Defense Security Cooperation Agency, a government website said in January.
He quoted an Air Force spokesperson as saying the aircraft would increase capacity for heavy airlift missions.
The C-130.net website said that the plane that crashed first flew in 1988. The model is a workhorse for armed forces around the world.
The Philippine armed forces have a spotty aviation safety record. Last month, a Black Hawk helicopter crashed during a training mission, killing six people.
A Philippine Air Force C-130 crash in 1993 killed 30 people. A 2008 crash of the civilian variant of the Lockheed plane flown by the Philippine Air Force killed 11 people, says the Aviation Safety Network.
The worst plane crash in the country was an Air Philippines Boeing (NYSE 🙂 737 in 2000, killing 131 people.
Fusion Media or anyone involved with Fusion Media will not accept any responsibility for loss or damage as a result of reliance on information, including data, quotes, charts, and buy / sell signals contained on this website. Be fully informed about the risks and costs associated with trading the financial markets, it is one of the riskiest forms of investment possible.