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MANILA, Philippines - The Piper Seneca airplane carrying Interior Secretary Jesse Robredo may have overshot the runway of the Moises Espinosa Airport in Masbate, resulting in the aircraft plunging into the sea, an aviation expert said Monday.
While the official version of the accident has the aircraft coming up short of the runway because one of its engines was crippled, Capt. Jovito Castillo believes that both mechanical and pilot error may have caused the crash.
Castillo, chief quality officer and check pilot of Cyclone Flying School Inc., told radio dzMM that the 6-seater aircraft, which was still powered by its remaining engine, may have tried to approach the runway from the other end of the airport.
"Siguro, sa akin lang, he probably approached from the mountain. May bundok doon, hindi naman mataas, a hill," he said.
"Pagka hindi mo naibaba ng mabuti doon sa airport sa runway, it's a possibility you will overshoot the runway," Castillo said.
"Ang gustong kong malaman, kung na-overshoot niya iyung runway...yung pasahero niya nakatalon eh. Ibig sabihin, mababa na siya doon sa dulo ng runway," he said.
"They overshot the runway and went over (into) the ocean," Castillo said.
He said contrary to a statement from one witness, the pilot seemed like he was not aiming for the water.
"Lumampas eh. Na-overshoot niya, tuloy-tuloy siya sa dagat," Castillo said. "Kung wala talagang land and you're very far from land, talagang kailangang i-ditch, sa dagat na talaga iyon."
The Department of Transportation and Communication's version of the event has the aircraft, owned by Aviatour Flight School, crashing into the sea 500 meters short of the runway while attempting to make an emergency landing.
Only a wing portion and fuel tank of the aircraft have been recovered so far.
Robredo's security aide, Chief Inspector Jun Abrazado, survived the crash. The interior secretary and 2 pilots, Jessup Bahinting and Kshitiz Chand, remain missing.
Authorities have yet to say how Abrazado survived. One version says he jumped out of the aircraft before it hit water, while another has Robredo's aide escaping from the ill-fated airplane after it hit the water.
Castillo told radio dzMM that the aircraft may have hit the water at a fast speed.
He said with a propeller running, the aircraft will plunge into the water faster.
"Kung nagfo-float ka pa, you have time to get out of the airplane," he said.
"But if you the water na umaandar pa o nagwi-windmill iyung propeller mo, there's a possibility na pabulusok, there's a possibility na papasok ka [sa dagat] ng mas mabilis," he added.
"The problem is, apparently, kung nag-approach iyan sa aking point of view lang, kung may obstruction sa dulo ng runway, overshoot ka doon," he said.
"(If you overshoot), mahirap nang iakyat iyon. Unless he will try his best to maintain altitude, pero bababa na rin sa tubig iyon," he added.