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Mon, Aug 20, 2007

Philippine Air Force Grounds MG-520 Helicopters

Fleet Taken Offline Following Accident

The Philippine Air Force decided to ground its fleet of US-manufactured MG-520 Defender helicopter gunships Sunday, after one went down a day earlier while engaged in a clash with Muslim insurgents.

Saturday's accident resulted in the loss of one of the helicopter's two pilots. Lt. Gen. Eugenio Cedo, a regional military commander, denied reports that the helicopter (file photo of similar type, right) was brought down by enemy fire, according to the Philippine Star. Cedo claims engine trouble caused the accident when the helicopter was headed back to a military camp.

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Western Mindanao Command told the Manila Bulletin the two pilots were flying the MG-520 back to Edwin Andrews Air Force Base in Zamboanga City when it apparently developed an engine problem and went down in the early evening.

Philippine Air Force spokesman Lt. Col. Epifanio Panzo told the Star 17 MG-520s were ordered to be grounded while an investigation into the cause of the crash is conducted. The helicopter impacted an area near southern Basilan Island.

The MG-520 is a four-seat light attack helicopter produced by McDonnell Douglas. The helicopter is equipped with machine guns and rockets for infantry support.

Air Force investigators were at the site of the accident to coordinate the retrieval of the helicopter wreckage, and determine the cause of the crash.

Due to the MG-520s being grounded, Filipino troops will have to temporarily use a fleet of Vietnam-era Huey helicopters and OV-10 bomber aircraft in an offensive against Abu Sayyaf insurgents on Basilan and Jolo Island, Panzo told the Star.



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