Diamond is back in the sky’
BY VICTOR REYES
CLARK AIR BASE, Angeles City – The Air Force staged its largest "diamond" formation in more than three decades on Thursday, using vintage trainer planes newly donated by South Korea.
Defense Secretary Gilberto Teodoro Jr., Armed Forces chief Gen. Alexander Yano, and Air Force chief Maj. Gen. Oscar Rabena led the landmark formation hours after the T-41B Mascalero trainer planes were turned over by Korean Ambassador Choi Joong Kyung.
Fifteen T-41B aircraft were donated by the Koreans, part of the commemoration of the 60th anniversary of Philippine-South Korea relations.
The aircraft were decommissioned by the Koreans in 2007 and the two countries later negotiated the transfer.
An SF-260 Marchetti plane joined the group to complete the diamond formation.
Teodoro and Rabena piloted two of the aircraft while Yano, who had a basic pilot course, served as co-pilot to the T-41B.
The last time the Air Force flew a diamond formation of a similar size was in the mid-70s, said Lt. Col. Allan Ballesteros, spokesman of the Air Force’s 1st Air Division.
The last formation involved F-86 saber jets under the now defunct 5th Fighter Wing at the Basa Air Base in Floridablanca, also in Pampanga.
"It’s been a long while… We’re happy. Even if these are trainer jets, at least our capability in the training is boosted. It was in the ’70s when we last had a diamond formation. That was the height of our strength, during the time of President Marcos," said Ballesteros.
Teodoro, a trained pilot and a reserve colonel of the Air Force, said he was not new to flying a T-41B. He said every pilot starts with such type of an aircraft.
"I feel excited, I’m looking forward to fly," said Teodoro before boarding his aircraft.
The 15 T-41B planes first flew over Basa Air Base, along with the S-211 plane, before proceeding to the San Fernando Air Base in Lipa City, home of the Air Force Flying School which will use the aircraft in training new pilots.
"This is the first time in decades that we will be having a formation flight, composed of 16 aircraft actually. This is a diamond formation, this is big," said Air Force spokesman Maj. Gerardo Zamudio.
Ballesteros said diamond formation flights are done as a sign of cohesiveness. He said diamond formations were not seen in the last three decades for lack of aircraft.
Choi, at the turnover rites, said, "The Korean government is one with you in helping advance the Philippine military."
Officials earlier said the aircraft are a "token of friendship" from the South Koreans whom Filipino forces helped during the Korean war in the 1950s. A number of military assets had been transferred by the Koreans to the Philippines in the past years.
Choi implied more assistance is coming to the Philippines.
"Please consider this as our contribution to strengthen the national defense of the Philippines and I am hoping that we will not end here. As in the past years, there will be many exchanges in areas of training and specialization between the Philippines and Korean militaries," he said.
cLARK AIR BASE, PAMPANGA - fifteen units of T-41B trainer aircraft donated by the Republic of Korea in formation shortly before the formal turnover of documents at Air Force City in Clark Air Base. Secretary of National Defense, Hon. Gilberto Teodoro represented the RP Government while His Excellency HOI, JOONG KYUNG, the ROK ambassador to the Philippines, was the official representative of the ROK. Mr KIM, JOO WON and other officials from the ROK-MND were also present to witness the event.