The Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP) confirmed on Tuesday that the wreckage found near Mayon Volcano is the RP-C2080 plane that has been reported missing in Albay province since Feb. 18.
Civil aviation investigators onboard a reconnaissance flight identified the wreckage using a high-resolution camera, said spokesperson Eric Apolonio.
The condition of the pilot, crew and passengers—including two Australians–is still unknown because the search and rescue team, hampered by bad weather, has yet to reach the crash site.
On Tuesday, a Philippine Air Force (PAF) helicopter tried twice to reach the site but was unable to find a safe landing spot due to strong winds.
A Philippine Navy aircraft equipped with an infrared camera for heat detection was also used for another attempt.
Apolonio said the search team will all-terrain vehicles to reach the crash site by land once the weather permits.
The RP-C2080 aircraft lost communication with the air traffic control a few minutes after take off at the Bicol International Airport on Saturday. The plane was last contacted while abeam the Camalig Bypass Road at 6:46 a.m. that day.
CAAP said the missing aircraft operated by the Energy Development Corp. is compliant with the airworthiness certification.
Rescue teams began climbing an active volcano Tuesday in a “very risky operation” to reach the wreckage of the small plane, officials said.
Four people, including two Australians, were on board the Cessna 340 aircraft when it went missing Saturday morning after taking off for Manila from Bicol International Airport in the central province of Albay, several kilometers from Mayon volcano.
Manila-based Energy Development Corp. said previously the missing plane belonged to the company. The Australians were technical consultants for the renewable energy company.
Rain, clouds and the risk of an eruption have hampered efforts to reach the crash site.
The CAAP said the plane was on the western side of the volcano, about “3,500 to 4,000 feet” above sea level.
Attempts to lower rescue teams to the crash site by helicopter were aborted Tuesday due to strong winds and cloud cover, officials said.
Instead, search and rescue teams, including veteran mountaineers, began making the steep climb on foot.
They were expected to camp overnight and reach the crash site Wednesday, said Carlos Baldo, mayor of Camalig municipality, which overlaps the crash site.
Mayon is the most active volcano in the country and last erupted in 2018, spewing tons of ash, rocks and lava. Access to its slopes is restricted.
Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology director Teresito Bacolcol warned there was a risk of a “steam-driven eruption or a rockfall”.
“It’s a very risky operation,” Bacolcol said.
“If they are willing to take the risk, only professionally trained and experienced personnel should be involved.”
George Cordovilla, one of the mountaineers involved in the rescue effort, has climbed Mayon several times in the past and said it was a difficult ascent. With AFP (See full story online at manilastandard.net)
“It could easily erode and trigger rockfalls even if there’s no eruption. Some are caused by wind, water or rain,” he said.
Another Cessna plane went missing on Jan. 24 in the northern province of Isabela. That plane’s wreckage has still not been found, Apolonio said.
Despite the recent incidents involving Cessna planes, there is no reason to suspend their operation in the country, the CAAP stated.
“If we do that, other operators will suffer because of the issue. They are not part of one particular case, and it will be unfair for them,” Apolonio said.
Based on CAAP records,Textron Aviation (formerly Cessna) has 151 actively registered aircraft with the agency.