Pending an investigation on what caused the crash, all UH-1D helicopters were ordered grounded and inspected, said Col. Antonio Francisco Jr., Air Force spokesman.
On Friday, Air Force officials gave departure honors to three of their men who died when the UH-1D with tail number 8649 crash in Sitio Hilltop, Barangay Sampaloc in Tanay, Rizal.
The fatalities were identified as Capt. Christian Paul Litan, 30, of Mataas na Kahoy, Batangas, the chopper’s pilot in command; Staff Sgt. Byron Tolosa, 38, of Barangay Villamor, Pasay City, crew chief; and Airman 1st Class Joseph de Leon, 30, of Lingayen, Pangasinan, gunner.
The aircraft’s co-pilot, 1st Lt. Ceazar Rimas, 27, of General Trias City, Cavite was injured.
“The PAF will have no further comments until such investigation is concluded,” Francisco said.
The UH-1D chopper was conducting air-to-ground and disaster rescue operation training when the incident happened at about 3 p.m. on Thursday.
The practical exercises that involved at least 60 soldiers and 12 personnel of the Philippine National Police in Southern Tagalog had ended when one of the choppers crashed, said Lt. Xy-zon Meneses, spokesman of the Philippine Army’s 2nd Infantry Division.
This was the second UH-1D helicopter that crashed since a whistleblower exposed an allegedly anomalous helicopter deal entered into by the administration of President Benigno Aquino 3rd.
In November 2015, a UH-1D chopper went down as it was evacuating wounded soldiers in Malapatan town in Sarangani province.
It was on a mission to airlift a dead soldier and five other wounded personnel of the Philippine Army’s 73rd Infantry Battalion that earlier clashed with New People’s Army rebels.
The aircraft was among the 21 combat utility helicopters in a controversial P1.2-billion modernization project, which The Manila Times exposed early last year as allegedly anomalous.
The Times source, Rhodora Alvarez, claimed the helicopters were defective.
Of the 21 helicopters, the Defense department accepted eight despite the alleged defects of the units and failure of the supplier to comply with specifications stated in the terms of reference of the project.