Blackbox of crashed C-130 plane to be sent to US for analysis — AFP Chief

Published July 7, 2021, 12:25 PM

by Martin Sadongdong

The retrieved blackbox of the Lockheed C-130 Hercules transport plane of the Philippine Air Force (PAF) that crashed in Patikul, Sulu over the weekend will be sent to the United States where it will be analyzed.

Gen. Cirilito Sobejana, Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), said Wednesday, July 7, that the military has no capabilities to analyze on its own the blackbox which contains the flight data recorder (FDR) and cockpit voice recorder (CVR) of the ill-fated airplane.

He said investigators were already prepared to transport the blackbox to a facility in the United States that is capable of evaluating and analyzing its data.

“Hawak na po nila subalit wala tayong kakayahan locally na buksan at tingnan kung ano ang nilalaman nito (They [investigators] have it already but we have no capability locally to open it and look at its contents),” Sobejana said in a television interview over GMA News.

“Ipapadala po natin ito sa Amerika at nakausap na rin natin ang counterpart. Sila naman ay nagcommit na kung matatangap na nila, bubuksan nila kaagad upang basahin kung ano ang nilalaman nito at ipapasa agad sa atin para makatulong ng malaki ito sa pagimbestiga kung ano yung sanhi ng pagbagsak ng C-130 (We will send it to America and we already talked to our counterpart. They have committed to open it immediately once they receive, they will read its contents and send the report to us which can help determine what really caused the crash of the C-130),” he added.

Sobejana did not specify where or what facility will the blackbox be transported. However, the crashed C-130 airplane was manufactured by American aerospace company Lockheed Martin.

Weather, human error

Defense Sec. Delfin Lorenzana said two angles are initially being eyed by investigators from the 220th Airlift Wing Aircraft Accident Investigation Board as to the possible cause of the plane crash: weather and human error.

“It could be a combination of the two kasi mayroong hangin sa likod kaya’t mabilis ang ano niya eh, mabilis (because we have the wind factoring the flight from behind, it was fast). Hindi siya nakapagmenor dahil mayroong hangin sa likod na malakas kaya’t parang tinutulak siya (It failed to break because of the strong wind coming from behind that’s why it appears being pushed),” he said.

“Another factor there is the pilot also. Baka meron rin syang hindi nagawa (Maybe he failed to do a procedure),” he added.

Lorenzana also ruled out the possibility that the crash could be caused by materiel error or a dysfunction on the equipment.

“Bago lang iyan dumating eh (It just arrived recently),” he said. The crashed c-130 (tail number 5125) was delivered in the country last January 29 from the United States. Although not brand new,the military said it has 11,000 flying hours left before it is due for its next maintenance.

Meanwhile, Lt. Gen. Allen Paredes, PAF Commanding General, denied that the plane was overloaded as he noted that it has a maximum capacity of 120 passengers.

“The said C-130 was not overloaded. It was well within the operational limits and capacity when it left Laguindingan Airport with 96 passengers compared to its maximum capacity of 120 passengers. This is contrary to the circulating rumor that the aircraft was overloaded,” he said.

There were 96 personnel aboard the crashed C-130 plane: 12 were PAF personnel while 84 were Philippine Army troopers who were supposed to be deployed in Sulu for counter-terrorism operations. As of writing, 53 of them died including 50 military personnel and three civilians while 47 others were wounded.

Sobejana said the investigating team was doing its best to determine what really caused the crash and all of the speculations will be confirmed once the details of the blackbox are available.

“Malalaman natin lahat iyan kapag ang ating imbestigador ay magsagawa ng kanilang official report (We will confirm all of these things once the investigators submit their official report). I told them to do it as fast as we can but this should be deliberate. We wanted to get the accurate information or facts,” the military chief said.

The PAF has grounded its C-130 fleet pending the result of the investigation.

Bodies identified

So far, Air Force chief Paredes said 16 military personnel who perished in the incident were already identified.

The remains of two of the victims were transported to Clark Air Base in Mabalacat City, Pampanga from Zamboanga City on Tuesday afternoon for burial. They were identified as Captain Nigello Emeterio and Technical Sgt. Mark Anthony Agana.

“Appropriate military honors were rendered to our beloved airmen,” Paredes said.

He said investigators were still in the process of identifying all of those killed through physical identification, dental records, and DNA testing.

“Once identified, the bodies will be brought to their respective hometowns and their final resting place. The fallen troops’ bereaved families will be accorded with psycho-social support, financial assistance and pension to support them in this time of sorrow,” he said.