Young pilot takes control of Shepherd One amid stormy weather

Lawrence Agcaoili - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines – Capt. Roland Narciso logged the most important flying hours of his young career when he took the controls of the Philippine Airlines Inc. (PAL) Airbus A-320 that carried Pope Francis and his entourage to and from Tacloban City through stormy weather yesterday.

Narciso said in a telephone interview with The STAR that PAL flight PR 8010 – given the call sign Shepherd One because of its distinguished passenger – was cruising smoothly almost 75 percent of the way until it reached the vicinity of Tacloban City, where it experienced turbulence due to Tropical Storm Amang.

But not even the first storm of the year could stop him from landing the aircraft safely at the Daniel Z. Romualdez airport in Tacloban, where thousands of Leyteños – many still traumatized by Super Typhoon Yolanda in 2013 – were waiting to welcome its most important passenger.

“It was an honor for PAL, for me and my family,” said Narciso who has so far logged more than 9,000 flying hours.

Before joining PAL, Narciso was with the Philippine Air Force (PAF). He was part of the Philippine Military Academy 1995 “Marilag” class.

He was also part of a team headed by former Supreme Court Justice Florentino Feliciano that investigated the failed Oakwood mutiny in 2003.

“We have no fear because our passenger is the Vicar of Christ on earth,” Narciso later told a group of his air force colleagues assembled at the Villamor Air Base to welcome back Pope Francis.

PAL flight purser Carol Uy, who headed the five-man cabin crew, said the passengers of the “almost full” papal flight were all smiles despite the bumpy ride to Tacloban City.

“It was a little bumpy but it was an overwhelming and humbling experience,” she said.

Uy, who has been working with the Lucio Tan-owned airline for the past 35 years, said the Roman Pontiff was served a “simple meal” just like other members of the papal entourage who flew to Tacloban City.

PAL spokesperson Cielo Villaluna said PAL of flight operations Capt. Skee Tamayo was commander of the flight. She said Capt. George Alvarez was also in the controls.

Shepherd One’s flight attendants were Ana Alvarez, Michael Chincuangco, Elsa Yuson and Vina Reyes.

Feeling blessed

PAL president Jaime Bautista told The STAR that he felt blessed to be given the chance to personally meet Pope Francis during the send-off ceremony at Villamor Airbase.

He said he and his wife Joji each received a rosary from Francis.

“I felt very blessed having touched base with the pope and received a rosary from him,” Bautista said.

PAL is the official carrier of Pope Francis in his visit to the Philippines.

“It is our honor and pride to fly Pope Francis to and from Tacloban City, so we formed the best team for the flight,” Bautista added.

It was also PAL, he pointed out, which flew the late John Paul II – now a saint – during his 1981 and 1995 pastoral visits.

In 1981, PAL spread out the best when John Paul flew to six provincial destinations within three days. A special papal chamber was built in the DC-10 aircraft that flew him to Guam and Haneda in Tokyo after his visit. – With Jaime Laude














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