MANILA, Philippines – Armed Forces chief General Emmanuel Bautista was making the rounds in Mindanao to check on the troops when he was forced to make an emergency landing Tuesday last week, December 10, in Lanao Del Sur.
Bautista was on his way from the 1st Infantry Division based in Zamboanga City to the 6th Infantry Division based in Maguindanao when the warning light was activated.
It was a mechanical problem, according to sources, and the chopper was forced to make an emergency landing at the Malabang Airport in Lanao Del Sur, where it was "fixed."
"We did a precautionary landing because one of the helicopters in our party had some warning lights on. It is standard procedure for the pilots to land and check the problem but eventually we were able to continue with our flight and reach our destination," Bautista told repoters Wednesday, December 18, when he was asked about it.
They were aboard UH-1H or Huey helicopters, the Vietnam War-era combat ulility helicopters that many Philippine Air Force pilots vouch for in spite of its age. The Philippine military claims it is still being used by some units in the US military.
The two Hueys were able to proceed to Cotabato on the same day but the malfunctioning Huey was unable to join in the following rounds.
The incident happened as 3 brand new naval choppers arrived from Italy's AgustaWestland. Two more for the navy and 8 more for the Air Forces are arriving next year. They are 3-ton class 8-seaters with twin engines. (READ: Air Force gets 8 new attack helicopters)
It's not the first time that the military chief was caught in a tricky situation. In Zamboanga City while military operations were ongoing against a faction of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), a stray bullet landed near Bautista when he was out to check on the troops.
He didn't feel the bullet fly into their location, Bautista recalled, but a fellow military officials picked it up and showed it to him. – Rappler.com