Remains of 3 PAF men in Sulu crash arrive at Villamor Air Base

Published July 10, 2021, 12:58 PM

by Martin Sadongdong

The remains of three Philippine Air Force (PAF) personnel who died in the tragic C-130 cargo plane crash in Patikul, Sulu last week have been transported to the Villamor Air Base in Pasay City on Friday night, July 9.

The wreckage of a crashed Philippine Air Force C-130 cargo plane is found by authorities in Brgy. Bangkal, Patikul, Sulu on July 4, 2021. (Photo courtesy of 11th Infantry Division)

A PAF aircraft ferried the bodies of Maj. Emmanuel Makalintal, pilot-in-command of the crashed Lockheed C-130 Hercules plane; Maj. Michael Vincent Benolerao, co-pilot; and Sgt. Jack Navarro, crew member, at Villamor Air Base around 7 p.m.

Grieving families and friends could not hold back their tears as Air Force personnel unloaded the caskets bearing the bodies of their fallen comrades.

“Tonight [Friday night], we received three fallen comrades. We gave them arrival honors here at Villamor Air Base. The significance of this is we are giving them respect and we extend our condolences to the family of those who died,” said Lt. Col. Maynard Mariano, PAF spokesperson.

After the arrival honors, a blessing ceremony was conducted and the three soldiers were each bestowed with the Order of Lapu-Lapu with a rank of “Kalasag.”

The Order is a Presidential merit given to government officials who have served their duties with utmost distinction.

“These three airmen have served with distinction in the Philippine Air Force,” Mariano said.

Deemed as one of the worst aviation disasters in recent history of the military, the tragic crash last July 4 claimed the lives of 49 military personnel and three civilians, and injured 51 others.


According to Mariano, the three fallen airmen were called “motherbird” as they were often flying together in the main missions of the PAF.

“Major Benolerao had been with me since he was a lieutenant, we were in the same unit. He piloted the aircraft that ferried the PPEs [personal protective equipment] from China during the onslaught of the pandemic last year. They’ve been shutlling in and out of the country when we took the medical supplies in China. They were also the ones that distributed it all around the country,” Mariano said.

“Same with Major “Mak” [Makalintal], as I have always called him. He has been our pilot if we have major engagements in the country,” he added.

“We usually call them the motherbird because they were our motherships when we were ferrying our equipment and personnel,” he noted.


Meanwhile, Mariano said the retrieved blackbox of the crashed military plane was sent to a safety institute facility of the United States Air Force on Saturday, July 10, for analysis.

“I may not be able to give you an exact timeline of how fast it can be analyzed but the data that we can gather from the blackbox is very critical to determine the flight profile and what really happened during those very critical moments that we want to look into,” Mariano said.

From the blackbox, American probers and analysts may be able to retrieve various flight data such as the altitude that the plane was flying, air speed, and the condition of the aircraft, according to the PAF official.

“If the voice recorder will also be analysed, perhaps we will hear voices from the cockpit voice recorder,” he noted.

However, Mariano said they have already received an initial report from on-site investigators that the pilots and crew members did not make any emergency transmission to the PAF communication tower prior to the crash.

“All of these were normal radio transmissions. There were no transmissions about emergencies during the flight,” he said.