Black Hawk down in Tarlac: 6 PAF men die in chopper crash

One of the six Black Hawk helicopters delivered to the military crashed near the Crow Valley target range in Capas, Tarlac, on Wednesday night. The chopper forms part of the first delivery to the Philippine Air Force. In photo is the second batch of the Black Hawks delivered on June 7 this year in Clark, Pampanga.

Six Philippine Air Force (PAF) personnel, including three junior officers, perished on Wednesday night after the S-70i Black Hawk utility helicopter that was carrying them crashed in Tarlac.

The chopper, attached to the 205th Helicopter Wing, was on a Night Flight Proficiency Training when it ran into a mishap, PAF spokesman Lt. Col. Maynard Mariano said.

The Black Hawk left its base at around 8 p.m., and it may have crashed within the succeeding two hours near the Crow Valley Target range in Tarlac, Mariano said.

“The helicopter was earlier reported to be late in returning to its station at the expected time at Clark Air Base, Pampanga,” he explained.

PAF did not identify three of the casualties of the crash pending notification of their kin, but three of them have the rank of a lieutenant colonel and major.

PAF has subsequently grounded all its fleet of Black Hawks.

The crashed aircraft was among the six Black Hawk units that formed part of the first batch of delivery to the PAF from its Polish manufacturer under the military’s modernization program.

A second batch consisting of five units of the same helicopters arrived early this month, but they have not been formally accepted yet by the PAF, which is under contract to acquire 16 Black Hawks.

Mariano said night proficiency training is part of PAF’s extensive preparation for both aircraft and crew prior to the deployment to different unified commands.

The Department of National Defense and the Armed Forces of the Philippines were saddened over the crash, which took place just several months after the delivery of the aircraft.

“We at the Department of National Defense extend our deepest sympathies to the families of the three pilots and three airmen of an S-70i Black Hawk helicopter of the Philippine Air Force who perished when their plane crashed in the vicinity of Crow Valley near Clark Air Base, Pampanga,” Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said in a news statement.

“In the meantime, the entire Blackhawk fleet are grounded while the incident is being investigated,” he added.

Aside from the Black Hawks, PAF’s fleet of Hueys also remain grounded following a crash in Bukidnon in January this year.

Earlier, a highly placed source said at about 1 a.m., the crash site was located at Sitio Manabayukan, Barangay Sta. Juliana in Capas, Tarlac where three mangled bodies have been recovered and three more were missing but presumed dead.

According to the source, Sitio Manabayukan is an village inhabited mostly by Aetas.

Image courtesy of PAF photo
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