The Correspondents: PAF - more air than force?

By: Cherrie Anne Ongteco, Multimedia Producer, The Correspondents

Posted at Sep 07 2010 03:39 PM | Updated as of Sep 07 2010 11:39 PM

To this day, Malou Corpuz is still in disbelief at the fate that befell her husband. He was one of the 2 pilots who died in a plane crash while training in Crow Valley, Tarlac this year.

It was 10 days after Valentine’s Day, when Captain Jose Enriquez Leandro Corpuz of the Philippine Air Force (PAF) told her, “Love, I’ll just check on something. I’ll be home soon.” He never came back.

Malou could not believe that his plane crashed because of pilot error.

She shared in an interview with The Correspondents how he would constantly reassure her before, “Di love, di ‘yon mangyayari sa akin kasi magaling na piloto asawa mo (No love,that will never happen because your husband is a veteran pilot.)”

His skill in flying decades-old military aircraft has been tested many times, including an incident which Malou recalled when her husband survived a flight after the engine of his plane broke down in mid-air.

Capt. Corpuz graduated with Class ‘99 of the Philippine Military Academy ranked second in his batch. A veteran of many combat missions in Mindanao, he earned a Gold Cross Medal, the third highest honor given to a soldier.

Malou said her husband had thought of leaving the PAF to fly commercial planes instead.

But when he learned that his trusted OV-10 was going to be replaced with a new one, he changed his mind. The PAF modernization plan gave pilots like Capt. Corpuz hope that pilots can fly without fear of the planes breaking down in mid-flight.

“Iniisip ko na lang na namatay siya na hero,” she answered when asked on how she copes with her husband’s loss.

Malou hopes that the old aircraft will be replaced with better ones, so that her husband’s death would not be put in vain or other pilots’ life in danger.

Despite this, the PAF has had its share of its “glory days” back then with the group Blue Diamonds.

The Blue Diamonds was the PAF’s precision acrobatic team that symbolized the Filipino pilots’ exemplary flying abilities, flying in tight formation and performing intricate aerial maneuvers.

They flew P-51 Mustang planes which were of the latest technology immediately after the Second World War.

After a few years, the group members left the Blue Diamonds and decided to fly commercial airplanes.

Up to this day, the PAF utilizes planes from its “glory days” like the OV-10 light attack and observation aircraft from the United States that has been in service for five decades. These military planes are used during air strikes in Mindanao.

Another is the 15th Strike Wing’s Defender helicopter MG-520 that Jorge Cariño rode and which is being used for the PAF’s light missions.

The latest acquisition of the PAF was in 1994, SF 260 planes from Italy which are now at Danilo Atienza Air Base and used in training school.