Thursday, April 30, 2009

Logistics park for Clark?

Peregrine Development International says it will develop a 174-hectare property in the Clark Special Economic Zone, Philippines into a mixed-use airline logistics and business centre, with investments valued at US$2 billion over a period of 10 years. 

The 65-hectare logistics centre will house companies involved in aviation support, plus logistics operations and distribution centres.

The 51-hectare business park will have aviation and airport support offices and airline services.

Other facilities will include space for flight and air crew training providers, aeronautical research and development, modelling and simulation centres.

Mount Kinabulu, Sabbah (Borneo) Malaysia

Flew past a few days ago and got this great shot ... 

More info on the Mountaiun can be seen here ..

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Air Asia looking to set up an affiliate in the Philippines, could be good news for Clark ..

Low-cost carrier AirAsia Bhd wants to have new associate units in the Philippines and Vietnam to strengthen its footprint in the Asean region.

AirAsia now has a 49 per cent stake each in affiliate airlines Indonesia AirAsia and Thai AirAsia.

"It will be great to have operations in the Philippines and Vietnam - the two biggest countries in Asean that we have yet to establish a base in," group chief executive officer Datuk Seri Tony Fernandes told Business Times in an interview last Friday.

By setting up affiliate airlines in the two countries, AirAsia will have access to a combined population of roughly 180 million.
"We have been offered a lot of joint ventures around the region and this shows the power of our brand," Fernandes said.

However, he has not set a time frame for the expansion as AirAsia is still searching for the right partners and working on securing licences from the respective governments.

Fernandes said the planned venture with Vietnam's shipbuilding giant Vinashin to form a Vietnamese low-cost carrier was frozen by the Vietnamese government.

AirAsia had signed a letter of intent in 2007 for a 30 per cent stake to set up its third affiliate airline, Vina AirAsia, which was to have been operational by the middle of last year.

According to a Vietnamese daily, its government has since told state-owned companies, such as Vinashin, to focus on their core activities.

Furthermore, the Civil Aviation Administration of Vietnam has proposed to its Transport Ministry not to issue new airline licences in Vietnam until 2011.

"But we are very patient. After all, we waited seven years to get the Kuala Lumpur-Singapore route. So I'm sure it will happen," Fernandes said.

He added that his ultimate vision was for all the AirAsia affiliates in Asean to become a single entity.

"My dream, without sounding like Martin Luther King, is that we are one airline in the end. Basically, for us to become one quoted company in Asean."

In the meantime, AirAsia will continue to position itself as an Asean company and strive to be a dominant airline in the region.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

42 in ChemTrad crash search team stranded

TUGUEGARAO CITY – Forty-two members of the team that retrieved the seven bodies from the ill-fated ChemTrad plane in Mt. Alas Diyes in Sitio (sub-village) Bayang in Baggao, Cagayan, remained stranded on Thursday because of floods from swollen rivers in the area.

Melchito Castro, regional civil defense chief, said the heavy rains triggered by the tail end of a cold front in Northern Luzon delayed the team’s return here.

He said two Huey helicopters that were supposed to airlift the team members failed to land in a designated pickup area because of the foul weather.

On Tuesday, Chief Superintendent Roberto Damian, Cagayan Valley police director, called off plans to airlift the members from the site where the twin-engine Islander owned by ChemTrad Aviation Corp. crashed. He said the “erratic” weather had made flying over the area very risky.

Damian, who is also chairman of the Cagayan Valley regional disaster coordinating council (RDCC), lauded the bravery and proficiency of Air Force pilots who flew into bad weather over the Sierra Madre mountains on Monday morning in what he described as a daring retrieval operation.

“I can say that though we have the best pilots around, who have the guts to fly the harshest missions, we just cannot take any more risks,” he said, halting plans of additional sorties to the site on Tuesday to get the rescuers.

The Britten-Norman BN2 plane, known as Islander, crashed in Mt. Alas Diyes in Sitio Bayang in Baggao on April 2, minutes after it took off from the airport here for Maconacon town in Isabela.

Rescuers found the wreckage only on April 14, 12 days after it was reported missing.

The pilot, Captain Tomas Z. Yañez, co-pilot Captain Reiner Ruiz, and passengers Senior Police Officer 2 Rolly Castaños, Celestino Salacup, Abelardo Baggay, Joel Basilio, and James Bakilan, died in the crash.

The retrieval of their bodies capped more than two weeks of search and rescue operations deep in the mountains of Sierra Madre.

Captain Mannie Barradas, ChemTrad owner and board chairman, said the crash site was 5,000 meters above sea level, on a thickly-forested ridge with a 60-degree slope.

Because airlifting them from the site was no longer possible, rescuers would have to walk for another day and a half to a river below the mountains where it was safer for them to be ferried by a helicopter, he said.

The rescuers, including mountaineers, and village volunteers, hiked for three to four days to reach the site.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Manila's Secondary Runway should get approach lighting CAAP - More Woes!

THE Ninoy Aquino International Airport (Naia) could have access to another runway besides runway 06-24, provided the Manila International Airport Authority (Miaa) provides a special form of runway lights costing about P5 million.

Director General Ruben Ciron of the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (Caap) made this statement in the wake of Miaa General Manager Alfonso Cusi’s suggestion that runway 13-31 should be used by smaller aircraft classified as belonging to “general aviation [GenAv].”

Cusi made the suggestion to decongest international runway 06-24, and also to avoid its temporary closure during emergencies or accidents.

The Naia’s main runway was closed for three hours on Sunday after a light aircraft, belonging to the Care Jet Co. of the United States, aborted its takeoff about 8 p.m. when its landing gears erupted in fire and smoke.

The aircraft stopped in the middle of the runway, while responding firefighters prevented the fire from spreading.

No one among the four persons onboard were hurt, including the pilot, copilot and two medical assistants.

The Cessna jet flew in from Guam at 6 p.m. Sunday with a patient onboard, seeking medical treatment in the Philippines.

Due to the accident, scores of arriving international and domestic flights were diverted to the Diosdado Macapagal International Airport in Clark, Pampanga. Normal operations at the Naia resumed at 11 p.m.

The Miaa chief, not wanting a repeat of the debacle, has suggested to the Naia Time Slotting Committee to review the scheduling of small aircraft, weighing 25,000 kilograms or below, by directing them to domestic runway 13-31.

“Aircraft like these are usually owned by operators at our GenAv and, therefore, would be most logical to make them use the domestic runway for landing and take-off. In so doing, we can maximize the use of the international runway for commercial operations,” Cusi added.

When asked to comment about the incident, Ciron said that air-traffic controllers assigned the Westwind II aircraft to take off on runway 06-24 since runway 13-31 is only used by light aircraft during daytime, or when good weather condition prevails.

“One of the solutions to decongest runway 06-24 is to convert runway 13-31 into an instrument runway,” Ciron said in a letter to Cusi on April 16.

“Instrument runways” could be used at day- or nighttime or during bad weather when pilots could use the navigational aids, such as the distance-measuring equipment, and the very high-frequency Omni-directional range, to land and take off safely.

However, before the domestic runway could be made into an all-weather runway, Ciron suggested that Cusi install in it a Runway Threshold Identification Light “to complete the airfield lighting system requirements for such runway.”

The Caap chief said a New Zealand aviation company, which also conducted flight checks in scores of provincial airports, had already subjected runway 13-31 to several flight checks. “The Caap had already designed the approach chart of runway 13 and had finished the corresponding flight checks,” Ciron said, adding that the foreign aviation experts have declared the runway safe for instrument approach.

The domestic runway used to be an instrument runway about 10 years ago, but was temporarily decommissioned after several tall buildings on Roxas Boulevard were built, disrupting the radio signals from the navigational aids.

The buildings were aligned with the domestic runway, and the radio signals coming from the navigational aids tended to be disrupted due to the buildings’ interference, Ciron said.

A decade ago, the then-Air Transportation Office sued the owners of the buildings for violation of aviation rules, forcing them to reduce the height of the concrete and glass buildings.

However, some of them remain at heights in violation of Caap rules, which made the nav-aids ineffective and dangerous to use, since their signals could mislead pilots.

Lately, Ciron has led the move to restore runway 13-31 to an all-weather runway, seeking the cooperation of the Miaa for a joint effort, so that the Naia could have two instrument runways and reduce the congestion that is now the bane of the 30-member Airline Operators Council.

The Caap has realigned the angle of radio signals for the safe use of pilots landing on the domestic airport, in conjunction with the proposed threshold lighting system.

Despite this, however, the domestic airport would remain a “nonprecision” runway due to the absence of an “instrument landing system,” which only runway 06-24 is equipped at the moment.

The presence of the tall buildings on the approach of the domestic runway would never allow an ILS to be installed there, Ciron told the BusinessMirror.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

NAIA Woes - Philippines Main Airport still Struggles

IT is well that  Manila International Airport Authority (MIAA) General Manager Alfonso Cusi has given “additional guidance” to the Naia Time Slotting Committee to give priority to review the scheduling of small-aircraft flights at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (Naia), in light of recurring problems of runway congestion that aggravate an already problematic situation for aviation in general.

Cusi recently asked Gen. Ruben Ciron, chief of the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP),  “to consider the utilization of Naia’s domestic runway, runway 13-31, during daytime for aircraft weighing 25,000 kilograms and below.” 

He explained the rationale for the decision: “Aircraft like these are usually owned by operators at our general aviation, therefore, would be most logical to make them use the domestic runway for landing and takeoff. In so doing, we can maximize the use of the international runway for commercial operations.” 

The Philippines is the only Asian country that has only one international runway (runway 24) at its premier airport, thus disrupting so many international flights when even just a single incident occurs on that runway. 

In the latest incident, Cusi reported that at about 8 p.m. on Sunday, a Westwind-II aircraft with registry number N-911GU aborted takeoff at Naia’s international runway after the pilot noticed smoke emanating from its left wheel. Rescue teams were quickly deployed to the site, but heavy rains delayed their work.

But whether the rains are pouring or not, the fact that there’s only one international runway is a real constraint. 

Disruptions to flights owing to this congestion compound the already problematic situation in general, as this paper’s aviation reporter, Recto Mercene, had long been writing about. As a result, air-traffic control has to use a “bag of tricks” in order to ensure the safety of all flights going into and out of Manila, i.e., imposing longer separation times between flights during peak seasons or holidays like Christmas and New Year. Again, the bottom line: Flights are delayed because—rightly so—air-traffic controllers must pick safety over convenience. 

But the point is that if the necessary hardware are budgeted for and actually installed, so many of the problems faced by aviation personnel could be reduced. For instance, in Sunday night’s fiasco, it turns out the air ambulance was not an exception: Small aircraft are routinely deployed to runway 24 (the sole international runway) because domestic runway 13-31 cannot be used after sundown. The excuse: It’s “not an instrument runway,” and can only be used for visual flight rules. Sources said efforts to install an instrument system at runway 13-31 ran into technical snags a few years ago, and no one, it seems, has bothered to review the problem.

And, speaking of personnel, it’s been nearly a year since Congress passed the CAAP law, but the latest word is that reforms to boost staffing morale and competence are proceeding slowly. The problem of getting, training and keeping competent airmen is thus something that won’t go away soon.

Taken together, these persistent problems are bound to affect our status as an aviation center—or derail hopes to reverse the dismal Category 2 status imposed by international bodies.

Reacting to Cusi’s move to review the runway slotting system, MIAA Airport Development and Corporate Affairs Assistant General Manager Tirso Serrano was quoted saying: “This move is intended to likewise increase terminal capacities for Naia Terminals 1, 2 and 3. With the recent opening of NAIA Terminal 3, we have increased our potential to 32 million passengers a year.” Between that potential and fruition is a wide chasm that requires, among others: the political will and a clear, unified vision among turf-conscious aviation agencies, and the budget to obtain crucial hardware and pay aviation personnel salaries they deserve.

Bodies from crashed Chemtrad plane finally retrieved - police

Four days after the missing Chemtrad plane was found in Cagayan province, authorities said Monday that the bodies of the crash victims have finally been successfully been retrieved.

A report from Region 2 police said combined elements of Army’s 17tth Infantry Battalion, policemen from Baggao town, personnel from the Bureau and Fire Protection in Kalinga and volunteers successfully retrieved the remains of the seven crash victims from the 10-seater Islander RPC764 airplane.

The report said that the remains of the victims would be airlifted to Tuguegarao on Tuesday.Additional equipment and food supplies were airlifted and dropped to the crash site Monday to boost the retrieval team's operations.

Much-needed power tools were delivered to the crash site so that the team could retrieve bodies stuck inside the wrecked plane which went missing on April 2. Three investigators from the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines and two embalmers were also brought to the site.

The plane took off from Tuguegarao carrying two pilots and five passengers on board, but failed to reach its destination in Maconacon town in Isabela province. The plane was spotted on April 15 in Baggao town, but rescue planes could not land immediately because of harsh weather and terrain.

Chief Superintendent Roberto Damian, Philippine National Police Region 2 director and Regional Disaster Coordinating Council chairman earlier said they expect to airlift the first bodies on Monday afternoon or Tuesday if weather conditions permit.

Philippines - Disabled plane closes NAIA runway

Philippines - NINOY AQUINO INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT – The airport management was forced to temporarily close the main runway Sunday evening after a twin-jet aircraft got stuck when one of its tires suddenly blew up while preparing for take off. As a result, 14 flights had to be diverted to the Diosdado Macapagal International Airport in Pampanga and to the Mactan/Cebu International Airport.

The Westwind2 twin-jet air ambulance belonging to CareJet, a medivac company based in Guam, lined up for take-off on Runway 24 at 8:18 pm. As it powered-up to gain speed, its left landing gear suddenly blew up and exposed the metal rim causing sparks to fly all over and setting the wheels on fire. As this happened, the flight crew, identified as Capt. Charles Cooper and Capt. Toshihiro Shima, brought the aircraft to an abrupt stop, jumped out of the aircraft and put out the fire using a fire extinguisher.

Airport emergency workers rushed to the disabled aircraft, which stopped some 200 meters from the take-off point, and assisted the airplane crew to completely put out the fire using chemical foam.

Both crew and the two Intensive Care Unit nurses, Matthew Keith and Eunice Neil, all got out of the incident unscathed.

With the aircraft blocking the main runway, the runway had to be closed with the air traffic controllers immediately releasing a Notice to Airmen (NOTAM) about the disabled aircraft. As a result, 14 arriving flights from international and domestic destinations had to be diverted to other airports in the country.

Seven international and six domestic flights were diverted to the Diosdado Macapagal International Airport in Pampanga while one PAL domestic flight was diverted to Cebu. The diverted flights included those from Cebu Pacific, Philippine Airlines, Singapore Airlines, Continental Airlines, Royal Brunei Airways and Emirates Airlines. 28 other domestic flights were delayed as a result of the temporary runway closure.

Airport assistant general manager for Operations Octavio Lina disclosed that the plane recovery team had a hard time removing the aircraft from the runway because they lacked the necessary equipment to lift the airplane.

According to Lina, the airport management has the necessary recovery tools but only for aircraft types that are normally found in the country.

The Operations chief disclosed that the medivac aircraft was specially designed with an extremely low profile for easy egress and ingress making all of their tools unusable. It was learned that even the pneumatic lifting bags, which are normally placed under the wing and then inflated to raise a plane, proved useless as the bags were too big for the aircraft. The special axel jack was also too big for the type of aircraft and could not fit underneath the wheels to be lifted.

Finally, borrowing a forklift from a nearby hangar, the recovery team was finally able to lift the aircraft, place it on skates and tow it to a nearby aircraft maintenance hangar—clearing the runway by 11 pm.

An airport official said he will recommend to airport authorities the purchase of more aircraft recovery tools to considerably lessen the time it takes airport workers to clear the runway of any disabled aircraft. The equipment will include newer jacking and towing tools including an overhead crane with slings.

The airport official added that they will also try to decongest the airport runway by pushing earlier plans of moving General Aviation flights to nearby airports in Batangas, Cavite, or Pampanga.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Cebu Pacific expresses interest in launching service to Brunei & Australia

The Philippines Civil Aeronautics Board (CAB) has received a petition from budget-carrier Cebu Pacific to launch flights to Australia and Brunei following the conclusion of air service agreements with the two countries.

"We’re very interested to operate flights to Brunei and Australia. We’ve been asking for entitlements so that we can offer low fares for these markets," said Candice A. Iyog, Cebu Pacific vice-president for marketing.

Cebu Pacific has sought 540 seat entitlements for three weekly Manila to Sydney flights, 300 seat entitlements for a twice-weekly Manila to Melbourne flight, and 360 seat entitlements for a twice-weekly Manila to Brisbane flight.

Cebu Pacific has also applied for "designation as official Philippine carrier to Brunei".

Flag-carrier Philippine Airlines, Inc. (PAL), meanwhile, said that it has no plans to increase flights to Australia at present and had not yet considered whether to mount fights to Brunei.

"We are on status quo for our flights to Australia," Jonathan P. Gesmundo of PAL’s Corporate Communications office said.

Last October, Lucio C. Tan-led PAL increased its Melbourne and Sydney flights from five times a week to daily flights.

Businessman Alfredo M. Yao said his budget airline Zest Airways, Inc. would also apply for entitlements to Australia.

"Yes, we have plans to mount flights to Australia as we are really aiming to carve niche markets in our flights. We also see some demand from there," Mr. Yao said.

Mr. Yao said that Zest was still weighing up their options as to whether they will mount flight to Brunei.

Last March, the country’s air panel finished air service negotiations with their Australian counterparts.

Over the course of two days it was decided that seat entitlements would be increased up to 6,000 seats from 2,500, for flights between Manila and Clark to Sydney, Brisbane and Perth.

Flights between other regional airports in Australia and airports in the Philippines have no frequency or capacity restrictions.

The country also sealed new air service agreements with Brunei last April, with flight entitlements for both countries increased from one to two carriers, and from five to seven weekly flights.

At present local carriers have no flights to Brunei, however, PAL, has code-sharing agreement with Royal Brunei Airlines, which flies five times a week between Manila and Brunei.

Puerto Princesa Airport devt project gets $71.61M from Korea

THE Korean Export-Import (Exim) Bank has agreed to extend some $71.61 million for the Puerto Princesa Airport Development Project (PPADP) through an agreement with the national government signed last week.

The Korean Exim Bank and the Philippine government signed the minutes of discussion (MOD), which confirmed the discussion between the Philippines and the appraisal mission. MOD will form part of a report by the Korean Economic Development Cooperation Fund (EDCF) that would be submitted to the Korean government for further processing of the loan. 

“The project aims to improve transport accessibility, efficiency and sustainability in Palawan; contribute to ongoing poverty reduction efforts, and support the Philippine government’s peace and development efforts in the region. The project is proposed for implementation from 2009 to 2013,” the National Economic and Development Authority (Neda) said in a statement.

The Neda said that based on the Korea Exim Bank’s appraisal, the project will cost some $92.1 million, or P4.4 billion, based on an exchange rate of P47.4 to the dollar.

Of the amount, around $71.61 million, or 78 percent, of the project cost is proposed to be sourced from Korean Exim Bank, while some $20.5 million, or 22 percent, will be the Philippine government’s counterpart fund.

Approved by the Investment Coordination Committee early this year, the PPADP involves the redevelopment of the existing Puerto Princesa Airport to be compliant with the International Civil Aviation Organization standards.

The project will involve the construction of a new passenger terminal with facilities to accommodate increased domestic passengers and international flights. It will also involve the construction of a new access road and provision of navigational aids, among others. 

The Neda also said the Department of Transportation and Communications and the Korean Exim Bank also signed the procurement arrangement (PA) for the PPADP. 

The PA covers information on arrangements for procurement for the contract packages, disbursement schedules and measures to ensure successful implementation of the project, among others.

The MOD were signed by Transportation Undersecretary Doroteo Reyes II, Neda Deputy Director General Rolando Tungpalan, OIC-Undersecretary Rosalia de Leon of the Department of Finance, and Chae-hwan Lim, operations chief for the EDCF Operations Division of the Korean Exim Bank.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Direct flights to S. Korea airport set from RPUS

San Fernando City, La Union -- Barely two months after the resumption of commercial operations, the expanded San Fernando Airport in Poro Point, La Union marks its first milestone by opening air link with the Cheongju International Airport in South Korea.

Direct flights between the two airports are set to commence on May 8, with an initial passenger traffic volume of 20,000 Korean tourists, mostly students, their parents, and other family members wanting to visit La Union, Baguio City, and Benguet.

Top executives of Poro Point Management Corp. (PPMC), a subsidiary of the government-run Bases Conversion and Development Authority (BCDA), made the announcement upon arrival from their recent visit to Chungcheongbuk-do province in South Korea.

The delegation, headed by PPMC executive vice president and chief operating officer Anthony C. Manguiat, came back last April 2 from a “highly fruitful” visit to South Korea.

The BCDA, which spearheaded the expansion and upgrading of the San Fernando Airport, expected substantial increase in tourist arrivals and investments in Northern Philippines.

The group met with their Korean counterparts headed by Jang Soon Ja, director of the Korean Airports Corp., as well as with tourism and aviation officials of Chungcheongbuk-do. Poro Point’s development and the San Fernando Airport’s expansion are part of BCDA’s sustained conversion program through which former American bases are transformed into centers of socio-economic development.

Chungcheongbuk-do (North Chungcheong) is a province in the center of South Korea. It was formed in 1896 from the northeastern half of the former Chungcheong province. Its provincial capital is Cheongju.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Bataan Death March - A Story from an Aviatior - Lest we Forget

April 9, 1942. That’s a date 87-year-old Billy D. Templeton would like to erase from his memory. But he can’t.
The atrocities of the Japanese Imperial Army, which began that day on the Baatan Peninsula in the Philippines and continued for Templeton three and one-half years as a prisoner of war, are vividly etched in his mind some 67 years later.
Billy was one of about 76,000 American and Filipino prisoners forced to trudge through blistering heat to prisons some 80 torturous miles away. They became prisoners April 9 when Maj. Gen. Edward King Jr. formally surrendered to a Japanese force of 54,000. 
Tagged the Bataan Death March, the infamous walk is known for its brutality, executions and inhumane treatment. Thousands died before reaching the end of the line.
Billy, an Army Air Corps radio operator with the 19th Bomb Group, was one of the prisoners.
In an interview at his Lee’s Summit home, Billy says it was “hope” that got him through the weeklong ordeal.
“You had to think you were going to make it; otherwise, you could give in,” he says pausing. “What was your alternative?”
Billy, whose military career began in 1939 as a 17-year-old, made aviation history on Nov. 3, 1941, when he landed at Clark Field on Luzon Island in the Philippines in one of the  26 history-making B-17 bombers.
Why all the hype about a mission that resulted in Billy and all the other participants receiving the Air Medal?
This marked the first time a mass flight of heavy bombers had attempted to fly from the West Coast of the United States to the Philippines.
“In those days, planes were moved long distances over water by ship,” Billy explains, noting the 26 “Flying Fortresses” were dispatched to beef up bases in the Philippines in case hostilities erupted in the Pacific.
One month later, Japan bombed Pearl Harbor and Clark Field, destroying numerous B-17s – including Billy’s bomber. War had come to the Pacific.
Following the attack, a radio group in Headquarters Squadron – of which Billy was a member – received orders to assist the Signal Corps. So, on Christmas Eve 1941, a contingent of 13 men left Clark Field and set up a radio communications shack in the jungles on the  Bataan peninsular.
With the small detachment suffering from lack of food, dysentery, malaria and beriberi, the men were not ready for what faced them – the Japanese invasion of Baatan, which led to the capture of Billy and his companion Glenn.
Unarmed and trying to cross a jungle road, Billy and Glenn encountered two armed Japanese soldiers who captured them without firing a shot.
“They pointed in the direction they wanted us to go, and with a rifle butt to the kneecap, we headed out,” Billy recalls.
As they walked along the dusty road, Billy and Glenn saw more Japanese rounding up other prisoners who had surrendered and searching them for valuables.
“We joined the larger group,” he says, recalling everything of value was taken off them except their canteens, which were full. “We didn’t realize that such a small thing could be the difference between life and death in the coming days.”
With atrocities occurring one after another – sometimes hourly – it didn’t take long to figure out that only the strong, obedient and fittest would survive.
Some of the soldiers carried swords and used them to behead those who disobeyed their orders. Others found with Japanese currency, guns or knives in their possession were executed on the spot. There was no mercy.
Marching four abreast, Billy says it was instant death for anyone who couldn’t keep up or fell out of line. To  keep that from happening, the weak were put  between the strong.
Keeping the weak in the middle for support wasn’t foolproof, though. Once, a captain suffering from malaria fell out of rank and into a ditch. While kneeling and pleading for his life, a guard executed him.
Executions were common and carried out in many sickening ways. Like the man who was stabbed, strung to a tree and “used for bayonet practice.”
Even villagers weren’t immune.
Billy remembers villagers tossing rice balls wrapped in leaves to the weary prisoners passing by their bamboo huts when the guards weren’t looking. 
Touched by what he saw, Billy’s joy turned into sorrow and fear when an observant guard spotted one of the tossed rice balls in flight. He entered a house, killed the occupants and came out wiping blood off his bayonet.
Walking on dusty roads in 100-degree heat, the hot, dirty, smelly prisoners lived in their own squalor. There were no bathroom breaks.
 Death was everywhere, Billy says, recalling the stench of death, infection and other smells “stung their senses,” as did the rancid, decaying bodies strewn on and along the “road to hell.” 
  At Capas, the exhausted prisoners were jammed into boxcars and taken to Camp O’Donnell, where the only source of water for some 9,300 prisoners was from a single spigot. They remained there four months before boarding a “hell ship” for their final destination – Manchuria, where they spent the rest of the war doing slave labor. 

For the rest of the story, read “Manila Bay Sunset: The Long March Into Hell.” Written by Billy Templeton, the 144-page soft-cover book has been called “a  moving story of survival and personal triumph.”
Published in 2006 by River Road Press of Laguna Vista, Texas, “Manila Bay Sunset” is available for $15.95. To purchase a copy, call the author at 816-373-6983 or go to

Bad weather hampers Chemtrad rescuers

Bad weather continues to hamper rescuers from retrieving the bodies of the seven passengers from the ill-fated Chemtrad private plane, a police official said on Friday.

Retrieval teams on board helicopters encountered bad weather at around 3 p.m., prompting them to turn back, said Chief Superintendent Roberto Damian, Cagayan Valley regional director.

Three helicopters, one with lift and hoist capabilities, were unable to drop equipment and food supplies to the retrievers as strong winds and low clouds prevented the choppers from making a steady hover over the bivouac area of the retrievers, Damian said.

The 54 rescuers from the Philippine National Police, the Philippine Army, and local government officials are now in the area.

The Chemtrad light plane (tail no. 764) was found on a heavily-forested slope in Sitio (sub-village) Bayang, Barangay (village) San Miguel in Baggao town after it went missing last April 2.

Onboard were Captains Tomas Yañez and Reiner Ruiz, the pilot and co-pilot, Senior Police Officer 2 Rolly Castaños, Celestino Salacup, Abelardo Baggay, Joel Basilio and James Bakilan.

The plane and its crew were bound for Maconacon town in Isabela province.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Wreckage of crashed plane found but no survivors

MANILA, Philippines (Xinhua) - Rescuers today found the wreckage of the private plane that was declared missing 12 days ago shortly after its take-off in northern Philippines but none of the seven people on board survived the crash.

"There were no survivors according to the report," said Cagayan Valley regional police director Chief Superintendent Roberto Damian, adding that the wreckage was found along the slope of a heavily vegetated area in Baggaop, Cagayan province.

The islander plane owned by Chemtrad Aviation Corp. took off on the morning of April 2 from Tuguegarao city in Cagayan but failed to reach its destination in Maconacon, Isabela province on time, prompting authorities to declare it missing.

Damian said military aircraft attempted retrieval operations in the past week but bad weather and strong winds and the lack of landing zone prevented the rescuers from reaching the crash site.

It was one of the two plane crashes in this month in northern Luzon region.

A presidential chopper crashed in the mountains of Ifugao province last week, killing eight people on board including senior aids of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. Bad weather, again, was blamed for the tragedy while the authorities are still probing other possible causes. 

Bad news for expat pilots

The Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) is planning to phase out foreign pilots and lower pilots' retirement age.

The move will benefit more than 5,000 youth who during the pre-meltdown aviation boom trained as commercial pilots in countries such as Canada, Russia, the US and the Philippines, spending Rs25-30 lakh in the process, but are now without jobs. It will also benefit about 2,000 youth who are soon to complete pilot training.

The DGCA has prepared a draft proposal recommending foreign pilots' period of employment be reduced from three to two years and the retirement age for a pilot brought down from 65 to 60 years. The policy is likely to create 2,000 vacancies in the next six months, the official said.

Such is the job drought that Air India has received more than 1,350 responses to an advertisement for 30 trainee pilot posts. But just three years ago, there was a serious shortage of pilots in the country, necessitating emergency recruitment of pilots from abroad.

In 2007-08, 600 pilots were recruited on three-year contracts. It was then that thousands of Indians went abroad for pilot training. But by the time they finished their courses, the situation back home had changed leaving no demand for new pilots.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Northern Philippines - Missing plane spotted in Isabela – police

MANILA, Philippines--(UPDATE) Police and local government officials spotted in the northern province of Isabela Friday morning the private plane that went missing with seven people on board, a police official said.

The Chemtrad light plane with tail number 764 that suddenly went missing in the province of Isabela Thursday morning was spotted by police rescue teams from Maconacon town between the villages of Flores and Riena Mercedez, said Chief Superintendent Roberto Damian, police regional office 2, director.

Damian said they have no information yet if the seven passengers, including a policeman, are alive, adding low visibility prevented a police team from pursuing the rescue operation.

However, rescue teams from nearby Divilacan and Maconacon towns have now been dispatched to the area to verify the report, he said.

Earlier, Damian said they have received reports that the light plane made an emergency landing in an air strip owned by American missionaries in Valley Cove in Baggao town.

The private plane piloted by Captain Tomas Yañez went missing after it took off from the Tuguegarao Airport at 8 a.m. Thursday. The plane was bound for Maconacon town in Isabela but it did not reach its destination.

The plane had seven passengers: Captains Yañez and Ruiz (pilot and co-pilot), Senior Police Officer 2 Rolly Castaños, Celestino Salacup, Abelardo Baggay, Joel Basilio and James Bakilan.

Damian earlier said that the weather condition in the provinces was rainy.

Islander missing in Northern Philippines - 7 on Board

TUGUEGARAO, Philippines (AP) — Philippine police have declared missing a small aircraft with seven people aboard after it failed to arrive at a northern town.

Regional police commander Chief Superintendent Roberto Damian says the 10-seater BN Islander left northern Tuguegarao city in Cagayan province early Thursday for the remote township of Maconacon in nearby Isabela province some 35 minutes away.

Damian says it never arrived and that there has been no communication from the plane. 

It is possible the aircraft, carrying two pilots and five passengers, landed at another air strip. But he says authorities are "preparing for the worst."It has been raining in the area for two days.Damian says the plane is owned by ChemTrad Aviation Corp.

Damian identified the plane’s pilot as Capt. Tomas Z. Yaňez and co-pilot as Capt. Reiner Ruiz.

The passengers included SPO2 Rolly Castaňos, Celestino Salacup, Abelardo Baggay, Joel Basilio and James Bakilan.

Chief Supt. Roberto Damian, PNP regional director for Cagayan Valley, said the Chemtrad plane with tail number 764 left Tuguegarao airport in Cagayan province past 8 a.m.