'Tom Cruise aircraft' readied for the PAF
- Ding Cervantes () - March 20, 2010 - 12:00am

CLARK FREEPORT, Pampanga – The Philippine Air Force (PAF) will have four aircraft similar to that owned by Hollywood star Tom Cruise before President Arroyo’s term ends this June.

The Aerotech Industries Philippines Inc., authorized by the Italian aircraft manufacturer Alenia Aermaccchi, is rushing the completion of four of 18 SF-260 training aircraft at its assembly plant here.

Defense Undersecretary Lamberto Sillona told The STAR that President Arroyo has also ordered the rehabilitation of a C-130 cargo plane here, at a cost of P200 million to P400 million.

Defense Secretary Norberto Gonzales inspected yesterday the still unfinished SF-260 aircraft at the facility of Aerotech, an accredited supplier of the Philippine Armed Forces and the Philippine National Police.

“It’s the kind of aircraft owned by Tom Cruise,” said Aerotech chief operating officer Teresa Parian.

All the 18 aircraft would cost some $13.1 million and would be turned over to the PAF in batches every one and a half months starting June, Alenia regional sales director Roberto Pierdominici said in a press briefing during Gonzales’ visit.

Pierdominici said the first batch of four SF-260 aircraft is being rushed for completion and turnover in June, after the PAF requested that they be available for its anniversary this July.

“The new training aircraft will address the three to four-year training backlogs of the PAF,” Sillona said, noting the lack not only of training aircraft but also of pilots, many of whom have been recruited by commercial airlines.

Parian said the $13.1-million cost of the 18 trainer aircraft was based on cost estimates way back in 2005 when the government contracted her firm for the project. She said no changes in the cost have been made.

“The cost includes the cost of training of technicians and pilots for the aircraft some of whom will be sent to Italy. The training will start in three months,” she said.

Parian said Aerotech earlier donated to the PAF two SF-260 aircraft after its six-year contract (2002 to 2008) leasing to the PAF its three SF-260 aircraft ended.

“So this June when the first four aircraft are finished, the PAF will have a total of six SF-260 trainer planes,” she said.

AEROTECH AEROTECH INDUSTRIES PHILIPPINES INC AIRCRAFT ALENIA AERMACCCHI COST DEFENSE SECRETARY NORBERTO GONZALES DEFENSE UNDERSECRETARY LAMBERTO SILLONA PAF PHILIPPINE AIR FORCE PRESIDENT ARROYO TOM CRUISE
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