MANILA - The Philippines' C-130 fleet had been grounded pending the result of of the investigation on Sunday's crash in Sulu which claimed the lives of 50 soldiers and 3 civilians, the Air Force said Tuesday.
In a statement, the Philippine Air Force (PAF) said members of the 220th Airlift Wing Aircraft Accident Investigation Board are already at the crash site on Jolo island.
"The team is gathering evidence and conducting interviews, among others, to determine the cause of the accident... The PAF has grounded its C-130 fleet pending the result of the investigation," the statement read.
In an interview on ABS-CBN's TeleRadyo, Armed Forces of the Philippines chief Gen. Cirilito Sobejana said the military had five C-130 planes in their inventory until the tragic accident happened.
Of the four left, only one is capable to operate as the others are under maintenance.
"Grounded lahat. Pero yung isang... actually na pwedeng ibalik sa operational status, yung palapit na ang curing period after undergoing the maintenance period. Yung 2, nasa Portugal ngayon. Sa 5, 4 na lang po ang naiwan," said Sobejana.
(They are all grounded but one of the planes can be reverted to operational status soon, since its curing period is nearing after undergoing maintenance. The other 2 are in Portugal. Of the five in the inventory, only four are left.)
"Wala pa yung... ibalik sa operational or flying status. For the meantime muna, grounded."
(It remains to be seen when the planes would be returned to operational or flying status.)
Sobejana and the PAF maintained that the Hercules C-130 transport plane was not overloaded.
"It was well within the operational limits and capacity when it left Laguindingan Airport with 96 passengers compared to its maximum capacity of 120 passengers; this is contrary to the circulating rumor that the aircraft was overloaded," the PAF said.
The passengers, authorities said, include 12 PAF personnel and 84 members of the Army.
The ill-fated aircraft, which the Philippines acquired from the United States earlier this year, has a maximum payload capability of 19,000 kilograms.
While it was not brand new, having been used by the US since 1988, it was in very good condition, officials have said. It also has 11,000 flying hours left.
Before the fatal crash in Jolo happened, the plane transported Maj. Gen. Romeo Brawner, Jr. and his family to Cagayan De Oro from Manila on the same day.
On Monday, authorities were able to obtain the plane's flight data recorder and cockpit voice recorder.
Sobejana said these would be turned over to their US counterparts to retrieve the content.