ATR Hit By Thunderbolt

28 July 2015

A Cebu Pacific ATR plane (5J892) was hit by lightning while gaining altitude  on its way to Manila from Kalibo after it left the airport around 6:50AM today.

No one was reported injured on the incident.

Dipolog Flight Hits Hailstorm

27 July 2015

A Philippine Airlines A320 flight (PR2557) bound for Dipolog was forced to return to Manila airport this morning after encountering massive hailstorm that broke its windshield endangering the aircraft pressurization integrity.

The plane was reaching for higher altitude after take-off when huge hailstorm bombarded its frame causing cracks to its windshield.

The Airbus aircraft successfully returned to the airport with no reported injuries. A replacement flight was later flown in the afternoon.

NAIA's Lightning Dilemma

27 July 2015

The Philippines premiere airport almost went to a halt yesterday afternoon after adverse weather disturbance caused flight and grounds operations to halt temporarily due to threats of lightning strikes.

Ground evacuation is now mandatory procedure for safety of ground crews after an aviation mechanic Sheldon Balang, employed by Aviation Partnership was hit by lightning last year while preparing the Cebu Pacific aircraft for departure at Terminal 3.

The thunderstorm alert was raised around 4:00pm and lifted at 7:00pm.

The effect at the airport was however massive, causing flight delays in arrivals and departure affecting more than 50 flights of different airline operators.

Multiple stacks of arriving aircraft was made on holding pattern due to the weather.

Cebu Pacific alone reported 25 flights being affected with stranded passengers inside 12 A320 aircraft sitting at the tarmac while rest lined up along the taxiway from runways 13 to 31 Sunday evening.

Passengers from arriving aircraft that are not serviced by tubes both from Terminal 3 and 4 were also not permitted to deplane due to safety concerns until about 7:00pm, but Cebu Pacific lifted suspension only about 9:00pm as a safety precaution.


23 July 2015

A GulfStream G-IV (N277GM) jet carrying a famous pop star was denied clearance to leave Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) yesterday after its passenger was held in Manila for Estafa charges.

Its famous passenger, American pop singer Mr. Christopher Maurice Brown a.k.a. Chris Brown and his promoter John Michael Pio Roda were barred from leaving the country as they were placed under the immigration lookout bulletin, following the former’s solo concert at the SM Mall of Asia Arena on Tuesday night.

A lookout bulletin was issued against Brown in relation to a criminal complaint filed by Maligaya Development Corp. (MDC) over his failure to fulfill earlier commitment to perform at the Philippine Arena for the Iglesia Ni Cristo (INC's) New Year countdown celebration on Dec. 31, 2014 after having fully paid for their services.

Brown’s plane was set to leave at 1 p.m. yesterday from a private hangar near Terminal 4 of the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) for a concert in Hong Kong.

The chartered jet is owned by Whirlpool Corporation of the United States.

How The B412 Came To The PAF

12 July 2015

It was an episode in December 8, 2013 when the world took notice of a storm and nations brought with them military hardware to help airlift badly needed relief supplies to remote areas in the Visayas and one rotorcraft impresses the Philippine Air Force on what could become the eventual replacement of the Hueys. The Philippine Air Force has been operating derivatives of the Bell UH-1H helicopters since the late 1960s, and received their first two Bell 412s in 1994, all in civilian variants. A first combat variant was recently delivered in June and was on display at the PAF's 68th anniversary in July 1 to become eventually the new combat utility backbone of the Air Force.  Our reports can be accessed here.

Ethiopian Inaugural at MNL

10 July 2015

After truly a long wait, Ethiopian Airlines makes history as the only African airline that fly Manila

CAAP issues first 'drone' license

RP U001A and RP U002A
First RP-registered UAV

9 July 2015

By Raoul Esperas
The Philippine aviation regulator has certified Thursday the engineering company SRDP Consulting, Inc., as the country’s first authorized operator of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs)
The Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP) has issued the first unmanned aerial vehicle license and certificate of authorization to operate a "drone" for commercial purposes.

Lt. Gen. William Hotchkiss, director general of CAAP, issued the license to Joel Cruz, the owner of SRDP Engineering and Consulting to operate two of their unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) or more popularly known as "drones."

Hotchkiss said the historical issuance of license and certification to operate the drone is a mandatory requirement for all owners of large UAV units that they use for commercial business.

Hotchkiss added that they also encourage all UAV operators that use their drone for personal purposes to also register their unit for safety and security reasons.

"Let us all be good citizens and keep our sky safe for the aircraft and it's passengers," Hotchkiss said.

Cruz, meanwhile, said that as a professional company engaged in engineering and aerial typography, they are honored to be the first commercial UAV operator to register their drone.

The two UAVs are now officially registered as RP U001A and RP U002A. SRDP or the registered license operator, Cruz, will now be required to file the necessary flight plan whenever he plans to use the drone.

Capt. Efren Rocamora of CAAP safety standards, however, reminded Cruz that the 10-kilometer radius for no-fly zone on all airports in the Philippines still applies even if he is a registered UAV operator.

Rocamora is also urging all UAV owners for sports or hobby purposes to register their drones with CAAP.

PAF Goes Haiti

8 July 2015

The Philippines has send 135-strong UN Peacekeepers of the 19th Philippine Contingent to Haiti (19th PCH) which are all-Philippine Air Force members at Villamor Air Base around 2:30 pm, yesterday July 7, 2015 for a one-year UN peacekeeping mission.

The contingent will replace the Philippine Navy contingent 18th PCH scheduled to return to the country next week, July 14. Filipino peacekeepers to Haiti are participating in the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti.

The Filipino peacekeepers were flown to Port Au Prince on board a UN Chartered Ethiopian Airlines Boeing 767-300ER (ET-AMG) plane via Honolulu and Los Angeles for technical stop overs.

Oman Air Flies Daily August 1

Ethiopian Flies July 9

7 July 2015

Oman Air is flying daily services beginning August 1 from Muscat to Manila. The airline is currently calling at Terminal 1 thrice a week using Airbus A330-300 arriving at 10:30PM and leaving the following day at 5:55AM. It is the only Middle East-based airline that stays overnight in Manila.

Meanwhile, Ethiopian Airlines will begin thrice a week services from Addis Ababa to Manila on July 9 initially via Bangkok using Boeing 767-300ER every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday arriving NAIA Terminal 1 at 6:45PM and leaves at 10:00PM. It will be the first and only Africa-based airline to operate the route and the second to operate via Bangkok without fifth freedom rights. It will have extensive connections to Africa by arriving Addis Ababa Airport at 6:30AM the following day.

A109 Helicopter Crashes

5 July 2015

An Augusta 109E helicopter (RP-C2726) carrying seven (7) passengers crashed yesterday noon at Barangay Pinagkaisan, Cuenca, Batangas killing its pilot and another passenger while heading back to Manila Domestic Airport from Puerto Galera in Mindoro Oriental, the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP) said.

Initial crah investigation reports from survivors disclosed the helicopter encountering strong winds and zero visibility in Batangas.

All the passengers except one survived the accident.

CAAP said the helicopter which stayed overnight in Puerto Galera was not cleared to fly to Manila before the accident took place because its pilot did not file a flight plan.

The helicopter operated by Malate Tourist Development Corporation was piloted Capt. Felicisimo Taborlupa who died on the spot while another passenger, Archimedes "Archie" King of Victoria Hotel chains died afterwards after being treated at Martin Marasigan Memorial Hospital in Cuenca, Batangas.

Helicopter passengers include Ling Ling, the wife of King, spouses Ricco and Tina Ocampo, Anton San Diego, Christopher and Patricia Chilip.

Secret Islands

3 July 2015

By Seth Doane

PAG-ASA -- CBS News correspondent Seth Doane began his journey to the South China Sea in Manila, the capital of the Philippines. There are no commercial flights to the island of Pag-Asa, where they were headed, so they hired a small plane to get there.

From the air, they started to appreciate how scattered the territorial claims are. Below, different features, including shoals, reefs and atolls, are claimed by different countries ranging from the Philippines and China, to Malaysia and Vietnam.

They landed on Pag-Asa, an island inhabited by Filipinos defiantly staking claim to the territory that China insists it owns.

Seth met Eugenio Bito-Onon Junior, the mayor of Pag-Asa. Not many mayors of 100 or so people are on the front lines of an international dispute like this.

"We are local- a municipality, but the concerns are international," Mayor Bito-Onon told CBS News.

He called living on the island an "exercise in sovereignty," and said each home, each citizen, each birth or marriage on Pag-Asa helps his country stake its claim on the land.

Pag-Asa is just 13 miles from one of the islands the Chinese have been expanding.

"Before, tension was not so heightened," said Bito-Onon, "but just lately in the past three years it has become more heightened." He said the Chinese have escalated their "bullying" and "harassment" of the islanders.

The mayor told Doane stories of Chinese warships passing not far from their shores.

The CBS News team wanted to get out onto the water to investigate for themselves, but bad weather and high seas kept them on land much longer than expected. Finally, five days later, the weather cleared.

Doane and his team hired local fishermen to ferry them out to the reef on their boat. It wasn't easy to convince the fishermen to take them toward Subi Reef -- the Chinese island. They worried about being detained by the Chinese.

Doane and his team were also worried about the sea-worthiness of the fishing boats --which generally ferry more grouper or squid than foreign journalists.

They headed out through the rough waters until they saw the Chinese island emerge on the horizon. Subi Reef has been inhabited by the Chinese since 1988, but in July 2014 it started undergoing a massive expansion.

As their boat drew closer, a warning signal appeared in the distance - beacon lights. Their captain started to get nervous as several more warning signals were flashed at them and decided it was time to get out of there. The team took what pictures they could through the haze, and turned back to safer shores.

Later, boat captain Romulo Barcoma told Doane he thought getting close to the Chinese island was dangerous. He said he was worried about his passengers' safety as well as his own, and wanted to get back to Pag-Asa.

From the shores of Pag-Asa at night, the dark horizon turns brighter, as neighboring Subi Reef grows bigger.

The islands sprouting up around him are "bigger than what God has made in this place naturally," quipped Mayor Bito-Onon.

Satellite images appear to show enough space on Subi Reef for an airstrip, and it is believed that ultimately the island will have one on it.

© 2015 CBS Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved.

CEBGO To connect Islands

1 July 2015

Cebu Pacific will be setting up more regional hubs for its inter-island flights in the Philippines through subsidiary Cebgo Airlines which will now operate all the ATR 72-500 turboprop fleet.

"Our plan is to set up a lot of additional hubs outside Metro Manila. We're gonna station a lot of ATRs in Cebu, Davao, Iloilo and Caticlan so that we can fly direct and connect cities together without necessarily going to hubs like Manila or Cebu," says Lance Gokongwei, president of Cebu Air Inc (CEB).

"I think the big market is really connecting these communities or secondary cities directly with the turboprop aircraft, which is a prudent aircraft," he said.

Cebu Pacific operates in 30 of the Philippines more than 90 operational airports.

Gokongwei said that most of the island airports will soon be connected with these aircraft which will be hubbed in major airports in Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao.

The Philippines’ largest budget airline is acquiring 26 turboprop jets at a cost of $673 million, including 16 firm orders of ATR 72-600s and options to acquire another 10.

The new orders will replace eight of Cebu Pacific’s ATR 72-500 aircraft.

Flying Not So High

Brand new Bell 412EP helicopters for the Philippine Air Force (PAF). Ptoto courtesy Allan Firmeza.
30 June 2015

By Ramon Farolan

I would have wanted to use another title, “Flying high,” for this article but the truth is we are still some distance away from the days when the Philippine Air Force was one of the best among Southeast Asia’s air organizations. The photo in the newspaper, showing a PAF Nomad parked alongside a P-3 Orion maritime surveillance aircraft of Japan during recent joint naval exercises carried out by the two countries, tells us how far we have lagged behind in the development of our air assets.

On Wednesday, the Philippine Air Force celebrates its 68th founding anniversary, marking its elevation to major service command status in the Armed Forces of the Philippines. It is the youngest and also the smallest in the family of our defense forces. Once its potential is fully realized, it will become the spearhead of our nation’s deterrence against foreign aggression.

This year, the Air Force expects delivery of additional medium-lift and surveillance aircraft along with a number of combat utility helicopters that will boost internal security requirements. Unfortunately, the programmed acquisition of 21 refurbished helicopters hit a snag with corruption charges flying all over the defense department, bringing the project to a complete halt. It is difficult to pinpoint who the real culprits are, although one cannot imagine Defense Secretary Voltz Gazmin getting involved in any shady deal. Sen. TG Guingona, chair of the Senate blue ribbon committee, has his work cut out. Until this is cleared up, it is likely that acquisitions of defense equipment may be subjected to microscopic scrutiny by government watchdogs. This translates into further delays over matters of great urgency.

By the end of the year, two F-50 lead-in fighter jets acquired from South Korea are due to arrive. PAF pilots and crew members are now in Seoul for training and will most likely fly the planes back home. A very modest beginning, but considering our other defense requirements, it represents a step forward.

Today, as part of its pre-anniversary activities, the Air Force will honor its retirees with a parade and review at Clark Air Base, Mabalacat City, Pampanga. Heading the long line of airmen who have served their country in the uniform of the PAF is Lt. Gen. William K. Hotchkiss III,its former commanding general and currently director general of the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP).

Willy Hotchkiss has done a yeoman’s job in getting Philippine aviation back to a position of respectability in the eyes of international aviation organizations.

Just to refresh our memories.

Seven years ago, the Federal Aviation Administration of the United States downgraded the Philippines from Category 1 to Category 2, after determining that the country “does not comply with the international safety standards set by the International Civil Aviation Organization.” This meant there would be no increase allowed in the number of flights to the United States and there would also be no expansion of existing air routes. The actions of the FAA were also imposed on Philippine air carriers by the European Union.

In March 2013, less than a year after Hotchkiss was appointed director general of the CAAP, the Philippines, specifically Philippine Airlines (PAL), was put back to Category 1 status and removed from the blacklist.

Last week, the EU lifted the ban on all Philippine air carriers registered with the CAAP, giving them permission to operate in European air space. EU ChargĂ© d’Affaires Lubomir Frebort announced: “It was the first time all airlines registered in one country were removed from the ban. In other countries, a couple of airlines are removed but the majority of others remain on the blacklist.”

A word about Willy Hotchkiss.

Willy is the grandson of William Hotchkiss, an American public school teacher from New York. Looking for adventure, Hotchkiss took a boat trip to the Philippines at the turn of the century, fell in love with a Surigao lass named Hermenegilda Azarcon, and stayed on. Willy graduated from the PAF Flying School Class of 1964, and served as commanding general of the PAF in 1997, when the Air Force celebrated its golden anniversary. With his name, his blue eyes and light complexion, one could easily mistake him for an American, but his heart is completely Filipino.