MANILA – The Philippine Air Force confirmed on Thursday that a military helicopter crashed during a night-flying exercise in Tarlac on Wednesday.
“Last night, June 23, 2021 an S-70i Black Hawk Utility helicopter of the 205th Tactical Helicopter Wing on a night flight training figured in a mishap a few miles from Colonel Ernesto Rabina Air Base in Capas, Tarlac,” said PAF spokesperson Lt. Col. Maynard Mariano in a report.
The helicopter had previously been reported to be late for its scheduled return to its station at Clark Air Base in Pampanga, triggering the subsequent search, he noted.
“As of this writing, PAF search, retrieval, and recovery teams are diligently at work,” Mariano said.
He also stated that night-flight proficiency trainings are part of the pilots’ and crew’s skills prior to their full deployment to support front-line troops in their operations.
“Although with inherent risks, this competency is vital and necessary for the transport and logistics requirements of Unified Commands. So far, no survivors have been found. The identities of the aircrew members will be provided as soon as the members of their families are properly notified,” Mariano said.
Following the incident, the PAF has grounded all of its recently purchased S-70i “Black Hawk” combat utility helicopters.
He further said that the PAF will undertake a comprehensive investigation of the incident’s circumstances.
“For the meantime, all the other Black Hawks will not be flown until the conclusion of the investigation,” Mariano said.
Mariano stated in a subsequent interview that the helicopter involved in the incident was one of the first six aircraft delivered in November of last year. Five more were delivered in early June.
The Air Force has placed an order worth US$241 million purchase of 16 S-70i Polish company Polskie Zaklady Lotnicze Sp.z.o.o. (about PHP11.5 billion). The remaining five units are scheduled to arrive before the end of the year.