Robredo plane crash due to engine and pilot errors, report says

MANILA, Philippines - Investigators revealed the plane crash that killed  Interior and Local Government Secretary Jesse Robredo was due to both pilot error and engine trouble.

In a 14-page report submitted by the investigating body created by former Transportation and Communications Secretary Manuel Roxas II and reported by The Philippine Star, it was revealed that there were several engine problems found in the plane, and that the pilot had mishandled the situation.

The plane was carrying Robredo, his aide Jun Abrasado, pilot Jessup Bahinting, and Nepalese student pilot Khshitiz Chand when it crashed into the waters of Masbate on Saturday, August 18. Only Abrasado survived the crash.

The report revealed the following technical problems: left engine idler shaft was loose, stud screwed to the crank case broken and the slotted nut missing; lock plate damaged; left magneto had evidence of burn; all piston rings stuck up; all piston heads and spark plugs had carbon deposits.

It also specified that Bahinting was aware that there was engine trouble during the flight, but he mishandled the situation.

The report said that based on the accounts of Abrasado, the pilot informed them there was a "propeller problem" 23 minutes after they left the Mactan airport at 3:07 pm, but still proceeded with the flight.

The pilot announced that they would return to Cebu, which prompted Abrasado to text those in Cebu to get Robredo a commercial flight back to Manila.

“Later he (Abrasado) sensed that the plane was changing direction and at the same time noticed an orange indicator on the instrument panel, initially blinking slowly, and later increasingly faster. Suddenly, he heard a noise and saw the right hand propeller stop, at the same time the orange indicator steadily lit,” the report said.

Abrasado asked if they were already near Cebu, but Bahinting said they were proceeding to Masbate instead. Abrasado then saw the plane turn left for its final approach to the runway, but Bahinting miscalculated and went past the runway.

The report said, “Then Abrasado looked at the pilot and saw the latter turn his head to the right and glance to the rear over his right shoulder, and remembers seeing his face turn red and eyes wide open (bulging). The airplane turned right and ditched upward, followed by a swift vertical nosedive.” 

At 4:25 pm, the aircraft crashed in the waters some 1.1 km from the Masbate airport runway 21.

“If the flight returned to Mactan, it would have landed safely with still two engines, as the loss of the right engine was after 38 minutes of flight after the initial propeller problem was noted,” the report stated.

The report also specified that the Nepalese student pilot Nepalese Khshitiz Chand was occupying the pilot seat, which should not be the case since the flight was for a VIP.

The plane's fuselage was found on August 22 some 800 meters offshore at a depth of 180 feet. Robredo's body was recovered on August 21, followed by the recovery of the bodies of Bahinting on August 22 and Chand on August 23. -