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Another AS-211 plane crashes in Concepcion, Tarlac

A handout photo released by the PNP shows the crash site of a Philippine Air Force AS-211 trainer plane at a plantation in Concepcion, Tarlac yesterday.

MANILA, Philippines - The Philippine Air Force reported that two of its pilots were able to eject and land safely after a military trainer jet crashed in Concepcion, Tarlac yesterday morning.

Air Force spokesman Lt. Col. Miguel Okol said the AS-211 training aircraft with tail number 024 crashed in the vicinity of the Intensive Military Training Area 1, in Santiago, Concepcion at 11:08 a.m.

“The aircraft impacted a sugarcane field and did not pose any danger to lives or property,” Okol said.

He said that pilot Maj. Wilfredo Donato and co-pilot 1Lt. Jose Wilbert Leonides Martinez, both of the Air Defense Wing, were not hurt after they ejected from the aircraft prior to the crash and landed safely.

The trainer jet took off from the unit’s headquarters at Clark Field.

The two pilots are now undergoing routine medical check-up at the Air Force City Hospital at Clark Field in Pampanga.

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Air Force chief Lt. Gen. Oscar Rabena created an investigation team to determine the cause of the accident, Okol said.

“We have dispatched a team to investigate and determine the cause of the mishap and as an SOP (standard operating procedure), Gen. Rabena ordered the grounding of the remaining AS-211s,” Okol said.

Three other AS-211 jets, made by the Italian firm Marchetti, are undergoing repairs.

The AS-211 was originally designed as a trainer jet, but the Air Force had converted the aircraft into an attack jet.

At the height of the Mindanao conflict in 2008, the AS-211 jets and OV-10 Bronco bombers supported ground troops fighting Moro Islamic Liberation Front rebels.

The Air Force acquired 24 AS-211 trainer jets in the 1980s as part of the military’s modernization program.

Central Luzon police director Chief Superintendent Arturo Cacdac said Air Force personnel and the local police immediately responded to the crash site in Concepcion, the hometown of President Aquino’s father the late Sen. Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino Jr.

Cacdac said investigators are still going through the wreckage to determine the cause of the crash.

Alexander Cauguiran, executive vice president of the Clark International Airport Corp., said the aircraft was reportedly low on fuel, which could have caused the crash.

Mr. Aquino had ordered Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin to make a comprehensive review of the different aspects of national defense to ensure where to put the resources of the government.

“I want you to know that if my expectations of you are high, it is because I know that our people’s expectations of all of us are the highest. I will not make false promises to you or tell you things simply for the sake of making positive headlines,” Mr. Aquino said in a speech delivered at the 63rd founding anniversary of the Philippine Air Force last July 5.

Officials said that most of the aircraft of the Air Force are already old and prone to accidents.

A former official of the Department of National Defense even dubbed the AS-211 as “widow makers.”  – With Jaime Laude, Ding Cervantes

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