Sokol accident: A wake up call to the government

Last week, two passengers were injured when an Air Force chopper, carrying 12 persons, crash-landed in a ricefield in Puerto Princesa City. According to reports, it was due to a mechanical problem. The passengers included PNP Directorate for Operations Head Chief Supt. Camilo Cascolan, Region 4B Director Chief Supt Wilben Mayor, Deputy DO Chief Supt. Nestor Bergonia, and Chief Supt. Amador Corpus from the Directorial Staff.

According to Chief Superintendent Mayor, they have already conducted an inspection for the visit of Chief Justice Ma. Lourdes Sereno in relation to the recent ASEAN Chief of Justices Conference held last November 10.

A Sokol chopper is a multi-purpose combat helicopter manufactured in Poland. It is designed to deliver combat support for the armed forces. It can destroy fixed and moving armored targets, as well as hostile troops. It is also a means to transport police, VIP, and emergency medical services. PAF’s press statement said the helicopter experienced one engine inoperative malfunction that prompted the pilot, 1Lt Gino Glenn Solano, to perform an emergency landing.

The incident at Puerto Princesa is not the first instance that a Sokol aircraft got into trouble, however. In 2014, another Sokol helicopter crashed in Marawi City, again due to mechanical problem. And in July 2013, according to a news report in Rappler, 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.

These Sokol helicopters arrived in the Philippines in batches in 2013, costing the government a total of PhP 2.8 billion. In light of the several instances concerning these aircraft, Sokol helicopters being used by the Philippine Armed Forces are fast earning the moniker “flying coffins”, waiting to snap their next victims.

The moniker would have been a bit amusing, if not for the fact that it speaks of volumes of trouble. The Philippines, as an archipelago, is in bad need of helicopters for its transport or combat requirements. The government obviously faces an urgent need to upgrade its rescue and combat wing. The recent accident, among others, is another wake up call to the government to scrap the use of dilapidated helicopters.

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