PI's remaining operational DC-3 crashed

Kills four in Las Pinas
October 17, 2009

Quick Facts:
Aircraft: C-47B-1-DK
Manufacture Date: 1943 as 43-48476 intended for the USAF, later converted to civilian use
Serial Number:c/n 14292; msn 25737
Operator: Victoria Asia Air Services
Time of Accident: 1230 +8GMT
Crash site: Villa Fidela Subdivision, Barangay Aldana Quezon, Las Pinas City
Casualties: Benjamin Baculpo and Benjamin Rivera, Pilots, Richard Gidaya, airport mechanic and crewmember Jaguar Juane.
Remarks: The aircraft had taken off at runway 24 of the Ninoy Aquino International Airport for a routine flight to Palawan when it suffered engine trouble around 1220 and declared emergency landing but failed to reach the runway on time.

By Joseph Ubalde and Mark Merueñas,

At least four people on board a DC-3 plane were burned to death when the private aircraft crashed into an "abandoned" warehouse in a residential area in Las Piñas City on Saturday noon.

Firefighters inspect what's left of a DC-3 plane that crashed and burst into flames in a Las Piñas subdivision Saturday. Benjie Castro
Before crashing into the warehouse in Villa Fidela in Elias Aldana village, the plane, which was on its way to Palawan for a test flight, was already flying low and hit a nearby house, dzBB radio reported.

Rudy Garcia, E. Aldana village chief, said he saw four badly burned bodies, three of them men.

"Parang tatlong lalaki ito, yung isa hindi ko makilala kasi sunog na sunog (It appears to be three men, I can't figure out the other person because the body is badly burnt)," Garcia said.

It was not clear whether the recovered bodies were residents of the area or the passengers or pilots. Authorities said the plane was carrying two pilots and five crewmen. A search for the other passengers are on going.

According to a dzBB report, some of the bodies were severed. There were no signs of survivors on the plane as of posting time.

Eduardo Kapunan, deputy director of the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines, said Victoria Aviation, owner of the plane, is in the business of transporting goods. The plane that crashed had body number RPC 550.

Kapunan said he has already seen the flight manifest but refused to disclose the names of the passengers and the two pilots aboard the light craft, saying “Mas magandang manggagaling na lang sa Victoria."

Kapunan said a DC-3 plane is a World War II vintage aircraft used by the Air Force. “Pero lumang luma na kasi itong [nag-crash]," he said.

Earlier Lloyd Olipano, a concerned resident in Las Piñas, called radio dzBB on Saturday and said at least two houses were damaged when the aircraft fell.

"Ngayon lang po nangyari, kababagsak lang, nagliliyab pa. Hindi kami makalapit. (It happened just now, it just fell, it's still in flames. We can't go near it)," Olipano said.

According to him, firefighters have already rushed to the area. Olipano is pleading to authorities to shut down the electricity to prevent any fires.

Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP) chief Pablito Cordeta said the fire was put out at about 1:40 p.m. both by members of the BFP and airport security.

Video courtesy of GMANews.TV

Air Crash Investigation

By Vito Barcelo

Ernest Sacro, spokesman of the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines, said the ill-fated plane was the last of its kind in the country after three other DC-3s were decommissioned sometime in 2000.

“That was the last DC 3 I know still flying in the country. It was so old that its owner sold it for only P12 million,” Sacro said.

The Douglas DC-3 first flew in December 1935 with 16,079 aircraft frames built in its Santa Monica, California factory. Less than 200 airworthy frames remained in active service in 2009 mostly operating in the outskirts of Africa, South America and the United States.

Until its crash, the twin-engine plane was used for aerial spraying, freight transport and to shuttle skydivers.

Sacro said the crash not only killed the four people that were onboard but also burned the P2.5 million cash that co-pilot Jaguar Juane was carrying as down payment for the aircraft that had been sold to an unnamed Surigao del Sur businessman.

He said Juane was the younger brother of Gerry Juane, the plane’s real owner, although it was registered under Victoria Air Inc.

Initial Findings

Ernest Sacro said that initial report points to pilot error as the likely cause of the crash as the pilot in command, Benjamin Rivera and Juane, were licensed to fly only smaller planes.

He said the Authority’s legal department was looking into filing charges against its owner after it was told the plane was not insured.

“The scrap from the plane’s wreckage would not be enough to pay for the damages it caused,” Sacro said.

The plane departed Manila for Puerto Princesa City around noon, but the pilot turned the plane back minutes later asking for clearance for an emergency landing.

“It was not in a test flight as reported earlier. It was carrying six drums of aviation fuel and was supposed to fly to Surigao after it unloaded some cargoes in Brooke’s Point in Palawan,” he said.

The flight and cargo manifest appeared to be falsified, indicating there were seven people on board but only four were actually there. Carriage of dangerous cargo was also not reported.

The plane appeared to wobble, its wings tipping up and down erratically, before it scraped the roof of several houses and hit the ground and ignited.

“The plane’s left engine conked out but the pilot could have made a safe landing if he had pushed the left button to operate the engine’s fan,” Sacro said.

“Instead, the pilot pushed the right engine button fan, causing the plane to drop like a rock.”

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