Palace Jet Aborts Landing Due to Cattle on Runway - CT

Cows, carabaos and goats grazing on the Virac Airport runway forced a Malacañang jet to abort its unscheduled landing last Saturday afternoon.

According to reliable sources, the Fokker Fellowship F-28 short-range jet with tail number RP-1250 filed a flight plan for Virac shortly before 4 P.M. while it was at Cagayan de Oro airport. When the control tower there advised the unidentified pilot that the Virac airport flight operations closed at 2 P.M., the latter said that he was proceeding to Virac at his own discretion.

When the aircraft approached Virac near sunset, it could not contact the airport control tower as its controllers had already gone home. Witnesses said the plane first made a low pass apparently to check the airport before landing and then went around for its final approach.

Approaching the runway from the west, the aircraft was seen to have lowered its landing gear and then just as it dropped down, it suddenly increased power to its engines and aborted the landing. Residents of nearby homes, who were surprised by the deafening sound of jet engines as it clawed for higher elevation, rushed to the airport area to find out what happened.

Residents told the Tribune that at the time there were at least three carabaos, several cows and goats at the grassy area at the center of the runway fronting the airport and at its edges. There was also a report of a boy riding a bike along the runway at the time the jet was trying to land.

Witnesses later saw airport officials led by CAAP Manager Cynthia Tumanut trying to clear the runway of the animal obstructions in case the presidential airplane came back. The management reportedly allows some airport personnel to pasture their farm animals at the runway when flight operations cease at 2 P.M. daily although sometimes the operation is extended to 5 P.M. for delayed flights. According to a knowledgeable observer, there should be no moving or fixed obstruction on the runway at any time in case an emergency landing has to be made.

The reports did not say anything about the passengers or cargo of the jet belonging to the Presidential Airlift Wing although speculation is rife that it could be related to the upcoming May 10, 2010 national and local elections.

An F-28 Mk 3000 series aircraft manufactured in 1979 by Fokker Aircraft Industries in the Netherlands, the presidential jet with "Kalayaan 1" call sign is powered by two Rolls Royce Spey Mk 555-15H engines, has a seating capacity of twenty-five passengers and has a flight endurance of four hours and thirty minutes. The aircraft has been in the service for almost twenty-nine years now under the then 700th SMW and now 250th PAW.

The aircraft was procured in September 1980 for the sole reason of being a primary aircraft for the nation’s highest official during the incumbency of President Ferdinand Marcos thru the Central Bank of the Philippines. It has been used by five presidents up to now, pending approval of the request for a more modern aircraft to replace it.

Source: Catanduanes Tribune - 07 May 2010