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Philippine Navy crew in Malaysian jet search still training

Camille Diola - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines — The pilots and flight crew manning the Philippine Navy's newly acquired AgustaWestland AW109 "Power" helicopters are still undergoing training while assisting in the international search for the lost Malaysia MH270 flight, a Navy official said Friday.

Navy spokesman Lt. Cmdr. Gregory Fabic said in a state news interview that the Navy servicemen have not yet finished practicing flight deck landings and getting accustomed to the aircraft when they were deployed to join the mission.

Fabic added that that training and the search operation will contribute to the crew's handling proficiency.

One of the three Navy AW109 helicopters was sent last March 9 in tandem with BRP Gregorio del Pilar frigate in an undisclosed location to scour the West Philippine Sea for the plane carrying 239 people.

The Del Pilar, one of the Philippines' largest and newest naval vessel, was deployed to replace two smaller boats that returned to port for refueling and resupply.

1st Lt. Cherry Tindog, spokeswoman for the military's Western Command said the Philippine Air Force Fokker 27 that searched on Saturday and Sunday was replaced by a navy Islander on Monday. A C-130 was deployed on Tuesday.

Fabic declined to comment on the exact whereabouts of the vessel and the helicopter amid the country's territorial dispute with China over the maritime zone.

The new helicopters were delivered to and commissioned by the Navy only last December.

Also read: Phl Navy's helicopter joins search for missing Malaysia plane

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