Air Force grounds 17 MG-520 helicopters
By James Mananghaya
Tuesday, August 21, 2007
Officials of the Philippine Air Force grounded the 17 remaining MG-520 attack helicopters, pending investigation of the crash of one of the choppers in Basilan that killed an officer.
Lt. Col. Epifanio Panzo, Air Force spokesman, said that PAF chief Lt. Gen. Horacio Tolentino ordered the grounding of the attack helicopters as part of standard operating procedures whenever an aircraft accident happens.
“The Air Force safety office is conducting an investigation. They are in the area now. Anytime today they might recover the aircraft,” he said.
He said that the investigation would continue to determine the real cause of the crash even as initial reports indicated that the ill-fated aircraft encountered engine trouble while in flight.
The attack helicopter was returning to its base after providing air cover for the Marines fighting Abu Sayyaf bandits in Unkaya Pukan, Basilan when it crashed at sea.
The pilot of the ill-fated helicopter survived but his co-pilot, identified only as a certain Udaundo, was killed.
Six of the 17 grounded MG- 520 helicopters are currently deployed in Mindanao to support the ground operations against the Abu Sayyaf in Basilan and Sulu.
MG-520, a light and versatile helicopter fitted with various weapons, is suitable for providing close air cover to ground troops.
The attack helicopter is equipped with 50 caliber machine guns and rocket launchers. It can perform quick maneuvers due to its small size. – With AP