The newly assembled planes were made by the US-based Cessna Aircraft Co. and would be used primarily to train the pool student pilots who have been waiting for months to fly an aircraft, according to a statement from the Philippine Air Force.
The aircraft were disassembled and shipped to the Philippines in December. They were re-assembled at Clark Air Base last month.
The Air Force also admitted that it did not have enough trainer planes to accommodate all its student pilots, as the military only has eight operational Cessna planes.
“Actually, it will speed up the training and ease the backlog in the training of students,” Air Force spokesman Gerardo Zamudio told reporters also on Wednesday.
The majority of aviation schools prefer to train on the T41 Cessna plane because of its basic setup that is easy for the students to learn, according to the Air Force.
Zamudio said the delivery of the aircraft was in consonance with a Memorandum of Understanding on Logistics and Defense Industry Cooperation Agreement signed by the Philippines and South Korea in 1994 to enhance military cooperation.
The donation from South Korea brings to 23 the number of operational Cessna trainer planes owned by the Philippines Air Force, which aims to shift from internal security operations to territorial defense mode by 2012.
Token of friendship
Besides the new Cessna planes, the Korean government earlier donated 12 PK boats or high-speed surveillance patrol vessels, 10 PKM boats, three F-5/A aircraft, 16 buses for the Philippine Military Academy, parachutes, field telephones, Kevlar ballistic helmets, engineering equipments and ammunition and maintenance parts for the patrol boats.
The donations are tokens of friendship of the South Korean government to the Philippines in commemoration of the 60th anniversary of relations between the two countries. South Korean officials have also said that they have not forgotten that the Philippines dispatched 7,000 troops—including Lt. Fidel Ramos, who later became a Philippine president—to fight against the communist North Korean regime in the 1950s.
The South Korean Embassy in Manila has events lined up for the next 12 months to celebrate the 60th anniversary of relations with the Philippines. The anniversary was kicked off last week with a business forum in Manila attended by about 100 high-level government officials and business executives. The embassy also hosted a South Korean food festival and fireworks display in Manila on Tuesday night.
Defense Secretary Gilberto Teodoro Jr. and the Air Force commander, Lt. Gen. Oscar Rabena, are to lead the official turnover ceremony today at Clark Airbase in Pampanga. Also joining them is South Korean Ambassador Choi Jung-Kyung.
Teodoro, a certified pilot, is expected to lead pilots in a simultaneous maiden flight after the ceremonial turnover.