View of the site after a Philippine Air Force Lockheed C-130 plane with troops on board crashed on landing in Patikul, Sulu Province, Philippines on July 4, 2021.
Armed Forces of the Philippines – Joint Task Force Sulu | Reuters
Philippine authorities on Monday ordered an investigation into the crash of an Air Force plane that crossed a runway that killed 47 soldiers on board and three civilians on the ground. Dozens more were injured.
Some passengers of the Lockheed C-130 jumped quite seconds before the plane crashed and went up in flames over the weekend, officials said, according to witnesses.
The plane, carrying recently graduated troops en route to counter-insurgency operations, had attempted to land at Jolo airport in southern Sulu province.
All 96 passengers on board were counted, 49 soldiers were injured and four civilians on the ground, military spokesman Major General Edgard Arevalo said.
At a press conference, Arevalo said the plane was in “very good condition” and had 11,000 flying hours before the next maintenance was due.
“We are determined to find out what really happened in this very tragic incident, because according to the information available, 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.
Military command said the soldiers flew to Jolo provincial airport from Laguindingan, about 290 miles to the northeast, to be deployed with their battalions.
The military in the vast Philippine archipelago is waging a long war in the area against Islamist militants from Abu Sayyaf and other factions.
Authorities said there was no sign that the plane had been brought down by insurgent fire.
“We assure our people that we are transparent and that the results of the investigation (will) be available when it is completed,” Arevalo added, saying authorities were still looking for the flight recorders.
The Lockheed plane had only recently arrived in the Philippines and was one of two supplied by the US government through the Defense Security Cooperation Agency, a government website said in January.
It quoted an Air Force spokesman as saying the aircraft would increase capacity for heavy airlift missions.
The website C-130.net said the plane that crashed had first flown in 1988. The model is a workhorse for armed forces around the world.
The Armed Forces of the Philippines have a patchy air security record. Last month, a Black Hawk helicopter crashed during a training mission, killing six people.
30 people were killed in a Philippine Air Force C-130 crash in 1993. A crash in 2008 of the civilian version of the Lockheed plane, flown by the Philippine Air Force, killed 11 people, the Aviation Safety Network says.
The country’s worst plane crash was that of an Air Philippine Boeing 737 in 2000, killing 131 people.