Two pilots remained missing and parts of their twin-engine propeller plane that crashed in southwestern Philippines Sunday night were found on Monday, officers said.
“Rescue teams from the Philippine Navy of Naval Forces West and Philippine Coast Guard Vessel 3503 were deployed to conducting search and rescue for the missing pilots, in the South China Sea off Palawan, near the Puerto Princesa airport,” Commodore Enrico Efren Evangelista, head of Philippine Coast Guard in Palawan district, said.
Members of the rescue team were told to look for parachute because the missing OV-10 Bronco is equipped with an ejection seat, said Evangelista.
Relatives of the missing pilots were notified, but their names were not released, said Evangelista.
At the same time, the Navy and Coast Guard found the cargo bay door of the OV-10 at nine Monday morning. “We can confirm it went down already. That is something we know for sure,” Philippine Air Force spokesman Col. Miguel Okol said.
It was one of two OV-10 planes that were on night proficiency flight mission on Sunday.
The pilots of the missing plane, OV-10 number 630 had requested for “final approach” at runway 27 at the airport 53 minutes after the first aircraft, OV-10 number 139 had landed, said Okol, adding: “At about 7.30pm, OV-10 number 630 lost contact with Palawan Tower and failed to land back.”
It was then five nautical miles off the airport and the weather was clear. But the crash site was also estimated at 11 nautical miles east of Puerto Princesa Airport, said Okol.
Bronco plane is a maritime patrol support aircraft.
The cash-strapped Philippine Air Force is fond of buying second hand aircraft that often leads to accidents. It bought 30 Broncos that were made in the 1960s from the US in 1991, and from Thailand in 2004.
They have been used in operations against Muslims in the southern Philippines and communist insurgents nationwide; to monitor coastal areas; and in search and rescue operations during typhoons and other disasters.
President Benigno Aquino called for modernisation of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, plans that were made during the time of former president Fidel Ramos in the 1990s but never came into fruition.