Despite two recent aircraft incidents involving Cessna planes, the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP) said there is no reason to suspend their operations in the country.
The country has seen three separate aircraft incidents barely two months into the year, two of them involving Cessna planes with passengers on board.
The first incident happened in Isabela on January 24 when a Cessna 206 carrying six individuals went missing. The second happened in Bicol on February 18 with four on board a Cessna 340.
Both airplanes have yet to be found, as far as the CAAP is concerned.
While local authorities earlier confirmed that a wreckage found near Mayon Volcano is that of the missing Cessna 340 based on drone footage, CAAP stressed that this needs to be validated and seen by its own investigators.
“Kailangan makita ng accident investigators sa mismong crash site kaya may nakunan ang drone kahapon but we need to validiate it kung yun ang hinahanap nating aircraft. Kasi maraming instances nangyayari yan, nakikita ang wreckage pero hindi pala yun yung hinahanap. We need to validate kasi kailangan talaga makita ng imbestigador dun sa mismong crash site para natin masabi na yun ang aircraft na hinahanap,” CAAP spokesperson Eric Apolonio said Monday.
These aircraft incidents are rare, according to CAAP. The regulatory body also said there is no reason to suspend Cessna planes from operating in the country.
“Kawawa naman ibang operator dahil masasama sila dun sa issue. Nag-operate sila ng maayos ng flying schools, ginagamit din ng mining companies. Kung iga-ground natin sila na hindi naman sila part ng investigation, it will be unfair for them also.” Apolonio said.
Since CAAP was created in 2008, the regulatory agency has recorded 157 aircraft incidents, 40% of which involve Cessna planes.
Based on CAAP data, the number of aircraft incidents recorded from 2008 until 2014 ranged from eight to as high as 20 a year.
The number decreased to less than 10 a year from 2015 to 2018.
The tally went down to an average of five a year since 2020 the start of the pandemic until 2022, with one incident each year involved a Cessna plane.
The low number, CAAP said, could also be because of most flight training schools suspended operations during pandemic lockdowns.
CESSNA FOR FLYING SCHOOLS
Flying schools mostly use Cessna planes to train their students.
Cessna, an American brand, is one of the world’s largest manufacturers of private airplanes known for its single-engine planes, which are used mainly for flight training and private flying.
“Marami silang (Cessna) dahil marami tayong flying schools 21 or 27. Hindi ka naman pwede magkaroon ng flying school kung wala kang fleet of aircraft na mostly Cessna kasi maganda ang performance,” Apolonio said.
From 2008 to the present, the majority of those involved in aircraft incidents are from aviation schools with a pilot and a trainee are on board.
There were only two notable incidents involving passengers on board Cessna - in 2015 in Negros Oriental and in 2021 in Palawan.
CAAP said they conduct random inspections of the aircraft monthly. This includes checking an aircraft's emergency locator transmitter (ELT) or battery-operated transponders that are triggered in the event of a crash and that help rescuers locate an aircraft in distress. If an aircraft passes these inspections, CAAP issues an Air Worthiness Certificate.
“Hindi ka bibigyan ng Air Worthiness Certificate kung wala kang ELT because yan ang number one kumbaga para ma-trace. Mayroon ho tayong checklist na tinatawag. May inspector po kami na pupumunta roon biglaan para malaman namin kung totoo talaga yung kine-claim nilang tama and besides dumadaan 'yan sa recurrency na tinatawag na every month meron tayong test and surprise visit na functional lahat ng dineclare nilang equipment,” Apolonio said.
However, none of these transponders of the Cessna planes that went missing in Isabela and Bicol activated or sent a distress signal.
“We can never tell why (ELT did not activate) unless ma-recover yung part ng aircraft,” Apolonio added.
CAAP also checked with air communication and navigation systems but yielded negative results. It has also reached out to its counterparts in Hong Kong and Japan.
“Hindi nag-activate yung ating ELT na tinatawag kaya chineck namin sa Hong Kong Mission Control at sa Japan at sa CNS-ATM ng Philippines, negative talaga eh wala hindi nag-activate,” Apolonio said.
The agency said that the only way to determine what caused the Cessna planes in Isabela and Bicol to crash is for their investigators to see and evaluate the wreckage. “We cannot speculate kailangan may final report kami ng investigators namin. Linya nila yan to assess,” Apolonio said.
CAAP also said it is high time to look into the creation of an independent transport safety body that will focus on investigations. Currently, CAAP regulates the aircraft, operates the majority of the country’s airports, and at the same time conducts investigation of air travel incidents.
Meanwhile, Australian Ambassador to the Philippines HK Yu expressed sympathies on Monday after two Australians were reported to be on board an aircraft that went missing in the Bicol Region on February 18.
"Sadly, we are aware that two Australians were reported to be on the light aircraft which disappeared in Albay province in the Philippines on Saturday 18 (February)," Yu tweeted.
"Our thoughts are with the families, friends and loved ones of all those affected," she said, adding that the Australian Embassy is in touch with them.
Yu said that the Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade is also providing consular assistance to the families of the two Australians.
Yu also thanked local authorities "for their tireless efforts."
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