A composite search and rescue (SAR) team was expected to have reached as of press time the site at the Mayon Volcano where a missing Cessna plane with six people on board was believed to have slammed on the mountainside shortly after take-off from the Bicol International Airport last Saturday.
It was supposed to arrive in Manila an hour later.
The Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP) said the SAR used a Black Hawk chopper to reach the crash site, and were believed to be only 300 meters away as of 3 p.m. yesterday.
CAAP spokesman Eric Apolonio said the responders, composed of 11 men from the Philippine
Army and six from the Bureau of Fire Protection, departed the headquarters of the Tactical Operations Group 5 at 7:08 a.m. for the drop off point at Mayon Volcano utilizing the S-70i Black Hawk helicopter.
The CAAP Aircraft Accident Investigation and Inquiry Board (AAIIB) earlier confirmed that the wreckage captured by the SAR team surveying the area was that of the missing Cessna aircraft owned by the state-run Energy Development Corp. (EDC).
“Once the wreckage site has been reached and the passengers are identified, they will be airlifted to an undisclosed area for further medical assessment,” Apolonio said.
The Cessna aircraft with registry number RP-C2080 went missing somewhere in Camalig, Albay on Saturday.
AAIIB records showed that Cessna (now Textron Aviation) aircraft has recorded 13 accidents, 10 incidents, and 11 serious incidents in the last four years (2019-2023).
Apolonio explained that Accidents are occurrences in the operation of an aircraft in which either a person is fatally of seriously injured, the aircraft sustains damage or structural failure, and/or the aircraft is mission or is completely inaccessible.
Incidents, on the other hand, are occurrences associated with the operation of an aircraft which affects or could affect the safety of operation while Serious Incidents involves circumstances that indicate that there was a high probability of an accident.
The latest incident (Cessna 340) happened more than three weeks following the disappearance of another Cessna plane with six persons on board that also went missing in Isabela Province.
EDC chairman Federico Lopez told reporters that as of Wednesday morning, the rescuers were already near the site but the steep terrain has posed a challenge to the search and rescue mission.
“Even if you’re only a kilometer away, it’s very hard to get to. So there’s a safety issue also on the part of the rescuers. They have to make sure they do it right given that Mayon is at Alert Level 2. And they have to make sure they have the right route too because it’s subject to flash floods if you get rain. So they’re being very careful,” Lopez said.
“Now they are making their way on land. So far no word yet that they’ve reached the site,” Lopez said.
The EDC earlier said an Emergency Response Team was able to get video shots and photos on Sunday of what appears to be plane wreckage located at a very steep terrain and high altitude of about 6,000 feet near Mt. Mayon.
“We’re hoping that it’s still a search and rescue not search and recovery. We’re still hoping that we can find survivors but it’s been, happened over the weekend, tough weather and you see the shape of the plane but we’re still hopeful that there’s a miracle and that prayers that there will be [survivors] but also we’re very conscious of the safety of the rescuers,” Lopez said.
He said the rescuers have provisions for three days so they can continue the search, adding that he cannot say how long it will take for the rescuers to reach the crash site.
The EDC has asked for prayers for the safe rescue of EDC pilot Captain Rufino James Crisostomo Jr. and crew Joel Martin, as well as passengers Simon Chipperfield and Karthi Santhanam, both technical consultants of EDC.
“We ask for prayers as we continue our extensive search and rescue efforts to bring them home safely,” the company said.
“We will not stop until they are found,” EDC said. RP-C2080 as reported missing shortly after taking off from the Bicol International Airport at 6:45am Saturday.
The company said it was in constant communication with the families of the passengers.
The EDC is also working closely with Camalig Mayor Caloy Baldo who took on the role of incident commander as soon as the map coordinates had identified their town as the most likely location of the missing plane.