Air Force grounds 7 other Sokol choppers after Marawi crash
MANILA, Philippines – A day after a Sokol chopper crashed in Marawi City, Philippine Air Force (PAF) chief Lieutenant General Jeffrey Delgado ordered on Friday, August 8, that the 7 others units 7 be grounded temporarily.
"The Sokol helicopters will not be used for the meantime. But we still have other helicopters to fill the gaps created. We have UH1H (Huey)," said PAF spokesperson Lieutenant Colonel Enrico Canaya.
An investigation is ongoing to determine the cause of the accident, which an Army general survived. The investigating team left for Marawi Friday morning.
The choppers are new, having arrived in batches between February 2012 and February 2013. All 8 of them cost the government a total of P2.8 billion ($64.4 million)*.
Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin has also instructed the Air Force to notify the Polish manufacturer about the incident.
"If needed, the investigating team will also involve the tech experts from the manufacturers to help shed light on the condition of the aircraft during take off," said Canaya. The 2-year warranty of the aircraft has expired.
The Sokol choppers were acquired for combat support operations, but were later found to be unfit for military operations. The weapon blocks the door for mounting and dismounting troops, which means a lot of delay in operations.
In his State of the Nation Address in 2013, President Benigno Aquino III cited this questionable purchase of the previous administration.
They have been reclassified for rescue operations and VIP transport. The one that crashed was the escort of the chopper carrying Gazmin, Interior Secretary Manuel Roxas II, and Energy Secretary Jericho Petilla. It was carrying Army Major General Ricardo Visaya.
The Sokol choppers were also crucial in last year's response in the aftermath of Super Typhoon Yolanda (international name: Haiyan).
The crash in Marawi is not the first incident for the Sokol choppers. In July 2013, another Sokol failed to take off from the military headquarters in Camp Aguinaldo. It was supposed to transport Gazmin to Pampanga for an Air Force event. – Carmela Fonbuena/Rappler.com