Skilled pilots prevented possible casualty aboard downed ‘Sokol’ — PAF

MANILA, (PNA) — The skill of the pilots of the crashed W-3A “Sokol” combat utility helicopter was visibly demonstrated when they managed to land the aircraft without causing too much damage to the airframe and injury to themselves and passengers.

This was disclosed by Philippine Air Force (PAF) spokesperson Lt. Col. Enrico Canaya on Friday.

“(At) very low altitude, (it) takes a highly skilled pilot (s) to maneuver the aircraft to prevent damage, or passengers to be hurt,” he added.

“We consider what they have done is a demonstration of their skills, because very low altitude and they just took off and then they were able to maneuver the aircraft in such a manner that they were able to save themselves and their passengers,” Canaya said.

The PAF spokesperson said in such incident there is very little room and time for decision making and yet the pilots were able to keep the “Sokol” largely intact.

“The landing may not be perfect because of the surface they landed on but then again, the skills of the pilots was made apparent when they managed to land in a spot where it will not harm the passengers,” he pointed out.

At the time of the accident, the W-3A “Sokol” was carrying nine passengers including the pilots and crew.

Among the passengers were 4th Infantry Division commander Major Gen. Ricardo Visaya and his staff. It was flying at a height of 50 feet when it encountered stiff headwinds which caused the aircraft to lose control.

It had just taken off from the helicopter pad of Camp Ranao, the headquarters of the 103rd Infantry Brigade, in Marawi City when the accident took place.

Canaya said the training of the pilots came into fore when they followed procedure by immediately shutting down the engines upon impact.

Canaya said that this is the proper procedure to follow in order to prevent possible explosion and fire.

“They are fully aware of what they are doing, they are very professional because they did not forget the basics of flying and they are conscious of (the) different situations (they encountered),” he stressed.

Canaya added that the pilots are scheduled to return to their families after treatment of their injuries.

He also clarified that the crashed helicopter has already exceeded its warranty of two years.

And until the findings of the air crash team are completed and made public, all seven remaining W-3A combat utility helicopters will be grounded.

These planes are assigned to the 505th Search-and-Rescue Group of the PAF.

The PAF spokesperson added that the Air Force has ample aircraft to utilize should emergencies erupt.