Gamboa OKs PNP chopper pilot courses

Archie Francisco F. Gamboa
PNP chief, General Archie Francisco F. Gamboa

OVER three months after surviving a chopper crash in San Pedro City in Laguna, Philippine National Police chief, General Archie Francisco F. Gamboa on Friday graced the graduation of 11 new police helicopter pilots from the PNP Special Action Force’s Air Unit.

The 11 composed of three females and eight males finished the Basic Helicopter Pilot Training or BHPT which will qualify them to fly the air assets of the PNP.

Gen. Gamboa has revived the BHPT courses for SAF Air Unit personnel following decades of inactivity.

During the graduation rites of the BHPT students held at the PNP-SAF Air Unit Hangar at the Domestic Airport in Pasay City, the PNP chief was joined by SAF director, Major Gen. Amando Clifton B. Empiso in welcoming the new police aviators.

Empiso said the 11 completed a 228-hour course which started on December 5 last year and will now be part of the corps of PNP aviators who will be in command of their newly-acquired fleet of rotary wing aircraft.

“Our graduates will be issued Private Pilot License (Helicopter) and will be qualified to become co-pilots and soon pilots-in-command to operate the PNP air assets and eight (of them will also be trained for their transition to the Airbus H125,” said the PNP-SAF commander.

Gamboa also witnessed the opening ceremony of the SAF BHPT Class 2020 during the occasion.

Members of the class composed of 14 student pilots—one of them a female officer—will undergo a 228-hour training program divided into four modules.

“This is a significant milestone for us in the PNP after decades of the inactive status of police air unit courses. Our goal is to boost air proficiencies of our qualified personnel, and most of them are from the Special Action Force,” the PNP chief said.

The PNP-SAF Air Unit is the only technical unit of SAF along with its 15-line battalions providing air support to all PNP units during police operations, tactical operations, disaster relief, search-and- rescue operations and other field and staff flight operations.

By February 2021, the PNP will have seven  Air Stations strategically stationed in the major airports across the country, said Empiso.

The opening of the BHBT program for SAF pilots came more than three months after Gamboa and seven others survived a helicopter crash in San Pedro City last March 5.

The PNP chief, along with then PNP Comptroller, Major Gen. Jose Ma. Victor DF Ramos and PNP Director for Intelligence, Major Gen. Mariel M. Magaway and PNP spokesman, Brigadier Gen. Bernard M. Banac were on board a two-year-old Bell 429 police chopper when it crashed due to very poor visibility after takeoff.

The other passengers of the ill-fated helicopter were an aide of Gen. Gamboa, two pilots and a technician.

Gen. Gamboa, Banac and the two pilots and the technician were discharged from the hospital after several days of medical treatment and examination.

Maj. Gen. Magaway last month was released from the hospital and is now home after fighting for his life for more than two months. Maj. Gen. Ramos is still in a comatose condition.

The two bemedaled police generals are classmates from Philippine Military Academy ‘Sinagtala’ Class of 1986 of Gen. Gamboa.

An initial investigation showed the helicopter got tangled with power lines shortly after takeoff in  Barangay San Antonio in San Pedro, Laguna where they inspected an impounding area of the PNP Highway Patrol Group prior to the crash.

The officials were on their way to the Police Regional Office 4-A headquarters in Camp Vicente Lim in Calamba City when their helicopter crashed. The PNP purchased the brand-new chopper in 2017 during the term of former PNP chief-now Senator Ronald ‘Bato’ M. dela Rosa.

Following the crash, the PNP temporarily grounded its entire aircraft fleet while an investigation is being conducted. The PNP maintained that the ill-fated chopper’s pilots were trained in France, the United States and in the country as officials said that ‘even a very good world-class training cannot foresee any accident.’