Philippines: Wind, Crew’s Response were Factors in Deadly Military Plane Crash

J.C. Gotinga
Philippines: Wind, Crew’s Response were Factors in Deadly Military Plane Crash Soldiers at Lumbia Airfield in Cagayan de Oro, Philippines, lift the flag-draped coffin of a fellow soldier who was killed when a C-130 transport plane crashed on Jolo Island, July 7, 2021.
Froilan Gallardo/BenarNews

Wind gusts and the crew’s response contributed to an air force plane stalling before it crashed and burned on Jolo Island in July, killing dozens of servicemen and some civilians, the military said Thursday in announcing results of an investigation.

The probe ruled out one thing: Islamic State-linked militants who operate in the area did not shoot down the C-130 military transport plane as it was landing at an airstrip on the main island in southern Sulu province, officials said.

“There was induced human factor that was aggravated by the environment, including strong winds at that time,” military spokesman Col. Ramon Zagala said. “But there is no single factor we can attribute exclusively that caused the crash. 

“The aircraft component, the environmental condition and aircrew response led to an unrecoverable stall in a critical phase of the aircraft operation,” Zagala said. 

When BenarNews asked him separately if the investigation had ruled out an attack by Abu Sayyaf militants, Zagala answered “yes.” 

He also announced that bad weather played a role in the crash of an Air Force S-70i Black Hawk helicopter, which killed six servicemen in northern Tarlac province on June 24. 

In the accident on Jolo, the C-130 plane, which was carrying troops to the island, overshot the runway, broke in half and burst into flames on July 4. Forty-seven soldiers and three civilians died.

“Our pilots are well trained, but we need to add more trainings,” he said. “The goal here was not to blame anybody and the purpose of the investigation is to help us avoid similar incidents in the future.” 

Zagala did not say whether U.S. investigators had filed information gleaned from the flight-data and cockpit-voice recorders. Philippine investigators had examined the voice recorder before sending both devices to the United States for analysis.

The C-130 was transporting soldiers who were to join the fight against the Abu Sayyaf, an Islamic militant group that operates in the south. Jolo is an Abu Sayyaf hotbed in the Sulu Archipelago.

Abu Sayyaf has not claimed any responsibility for the crash.

On Wednesday in Manila, Philippine Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana told a congressional committee hearing he was informed that a “confluence of many events” caused the crash, the Associated Press reported. They included “defective instruments or systems, plus of course the reaction of the pilot was not also appropriate for the emergency.”

Soldiers check the site where a Philippine C-130 transport plane crashed on Jolo Island, killing 50 including three civilians, July 4, 2021. (Joint Task Force-Sulu via AP)

Helicopter crash

Meanwhile, investigators found “a confluence of events also triggered” the deadly Black Hawk helicopter crash in June.

“Investigators found out that the chopper inadvertently entered a thunderstorm and was compounded by spatial disorientation or vertigo by the pilot, as the cause of the accident,” Zagala said in a statement. 

While not elaborating on the findings of both crashes, Zagala said, “The goal of the investigation, based on international practice on handling crashed aircraft, was to determine the cause of the accident rather than apportion blame.”

The investigations “will help us avoid similar events in the future by implementing additional safety initiatives, strengthening protocols and procedures, as well as instituting training interventions for our aircrew and personnel,” he said. 

“This shall put further protection to our assets, especially our members who continue to risk their lives to protect our people and the country.”

Both the C-130 plane and the Black Hawk helicopter were recent acquisitions of the Philippine Air Force, which has sought to modernize its aging fleet. 

One of five in the military’s fleet, the government purchased the C-130 from the U.S. in January. Although the plane had been in service since 1988, the Philippine military said it was in “tip-top shape” at the time of the accident. 

Manila has long relied on foreign military surplus equipment as it moves to modernize its armed forces.

The military considers the investigation over although it has to wait for an official declaration from the Philippine Air Force about the status of the four remaining C-130s, which have been grounded since the crash, Zagala said. 

The Black Hawk helicopter, built by Poland’s PZL Mielec, was one of six delivered in November 2020. It was on a night-time training flight in the northern Tarlac province when it crashed. 

Recent accidents

The two crashes added to a series of recent mishaps involving military and police aircraft. 

In April, an Air Force MG-520 attack helicopter plunged into the waters off Bohol Island in the central Philippines, leaving its pilot dead and three others injured. 

In January, seven soldiers died when their helicopter, a refurbished UH-1H Vietnam-era craft commonly known as a Huey, went down in the mountains of southern Bukidnon province. 

In September 2020, an Air Force helicopter used as an air ambulance crashed en route to Jolo, killing four crew members. Two months earlier, four soldiers died when their Huey chopper crashed after takeoff in northern Isabela province. 

In March 2020, the country’s police chief and three police generals were among eight people injured when their Bell 429 helicopter crashed near Manila. 

A BenarNews correspondent contributed to this report from Zamboanga City, Philippines.


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randy l. icalina
Sep 17, 2021 03:35 AM

just asking if runways are provided with a sandy or something soft at the end in case of overshooting the length when in dgte airport there is none that's why an airplane overshot the runway once & crossed the highway...same thing happened in mia some years back...