MANILA — No "distress signal" was detected from the missing Cessna 206 on the day it went missing in Isabela, according to the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP).
The distress signal is supposed to be sent to aviation communication towers if an aircraft experiences or encounters a mishap.
CAAP confirmed on Sunday that Cessna 206 sent no such signal to the Philippines Communication Navigation Surveillance/Air Traffic Management System (CNS/ATM).
The aviation agency said that checking the emergency locator transmitter (ELT) was one of the first steps it made when the small aircraft was declared missing.
ELT is a piece of equipment that serves as a tracking device for small aircrafts like Cessna 206. It sends a "distress signal" which can either be manually activated or automatically activated by impact.
CAAP said there are several factors why the ELT may not have activated.
"Maraming factor na kino-consider. Kasi ang ELT, pagbagsak niyan upon impact, tsaka naga-activate. Or kapag nahulog sa tubig naga-activate. We don't know what really happened, na hindi ma-detect ang ELT," CAAP Spokesperson Eric Apolonio explained.
CAAP declared that Cessna 206 missing an hour after it took off from Cauayan Domestic Airport past two in the afternoon on Jan. 24. The aircraft was supposed to land at Maconacon airport, after what should have been around a 30-minute flight.
Six people were on board, including the pilot and five passengers.
The aviation authority has reached out to their counterpart based in Hong Kong for possible detection of the ELT of Cessna 206. However, the Hong Kong Mission Control Center (HKMCC) said it also did not receive a distress alert from the missing aircraft. HKMCC sought the help of the Japan Mission Control Center (JAMCC), which also had no detected record of Cessna 206.
"Nag-coordinate na kami sa HK mission control center dahil meron silang satellite capabilities at kapag may ganyang aberya dito sa Philippine air space, sila ang nagsasabi sa amin or naga-advice," Apolonio said. "But negative 'yung kanilang information. Walang na-detect during the time of the crash. Kaya ang ginawa ng Hong Kong, refer it to Japan Mission Control. Pareho lang ng resulta. 'Yung third attempt natin sa ating CNS ATM through radar naman, wala naman, negative rdn ang info at walang information during the crash."
The six-seater aircraft with registration number RP-C1174 bears a Certificate of Airworthiness issued by CAAP.
The Isabela Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office (PDRRMO) said that the search could have been faster if only the ELT of the Cessna 206 sent a distress signal.
"Kung meron sana, mas mabilis nga sana. Pero hindi nag-activate. Hindi [klaro] kung bakit hindi nag-activate," Atty. Constante Foronda, Jr. said.
CAAP adjusted the hours of operations of Cauyan Airport to give way to the search and rescue operations while still accommodating flights to and from the domestic airport. Airlines also canceled some flights Sunday morning due to inclement weather.
The Isabela PDRRMO is likewise waiting for the weather to clear to deploy aerial search and rescue operations — the fastest way to get to the possible crash site of the Cessna 206.
Ground troops were expected to reach the area Saturday afternoon. The province's Incident Management Team is waiting for confirmation from the ground whether the white object seen by a farmer of Brgy. Dicaruyan and barangay officials of Sapinit and Dicambangan is the missing aircraft.