ANOTHER TAKE ON THE FATAL TRIP OF SILG ROBREDO
My heart goes for those who met a tragic end and left a promising career that fateful Monday, claiming the lives of a national leader, SILG Jess Robredo, a veteran and Samaritan flight instructor, Captain Jessup Bahanting and a capable student pilot, Kshitiz Chand. I am especially drawn in a scenario which I could only imagine, using circumstances as basis for my supposition.
Here we have a government official who wanted to go back home after a hard day’s work but could not find a regular route. He may have overshot his schedule and he does not want to delay his trip any further. He must have to take the trip home using available means possible. He took one option: use a private plane.
We have at that instance Captain Jessup Bahanting, a veteran pilot and flight instructor, manning his aviation school along with his student pilots. Captain Bahanting rose to public consciousness when his plane was used for retrieving a medicine for snake bites in another island, a singular feat which saved the cobra victim. It was by any yardstick a heroic act. He probably received a call from a government functionary seeking aviation assistance for their boss. That was the time when Secretary Robredo’s and Captain Bahanting’s stars converge into a common cause.
On the flipside of destiny, we have a 21 year old Kshitiz Chand, Nepalese student pilot under the stewardship of Captain Bahanting’s school. The Nepalese student must be one of Bahanting’s ace student, one who is literally boarding within the tarmac barracks and ready at any given time to engage any of the flying machine available. Chand as a student pilot must have to earn his 150 flying hours so that he could get his “wings” and his pilot license. As it were, he may be a competent pilot already but must have to complete his flying hours requirements. I know because I have a son who is also a student pilot.
The three personalities came together that fateful day. Captain Bahanting rolled out his own plane, a Piper Seneca . He was on that day host to one of government’s most powerful official and therefore must have to show what he is made of. Captain Bahating was also proud of his students and so he allowed his pilot student to take the seat at the cockpit and complete the mission. That would mean so much flying hours for the student; that would mean another feather on the cap of Captain Bahanting; that would also mean arriving earlier home for SILG Robredo. All winners in the equation.
But along the way, there were tell tale signs of contrast. The weather was hazy and it was late in the afternoon and visibility could have been difficult. According to the survivor, another personality who was incidental in the scene, he noted that there were also blinking lights flashing warning on the dashboard when they were up in the air. As they were about to land in one airstrip, they have to maneuvre and shift direction. The plane was having some mechanical troubles. Pilots are trained never to be panicky and so they must have tried to improvise. This was where the entire mission was locked and proved fatal. The student pilot may have lacked that experience, that confident mind set to steer his plane into a mode of stability. Any experienced driver will tell us that at high speed, when his vehicle loses the breaks or conks out, he can still control the wheel and steer it away from danger. At that time the student pilot was nowhere that level of experience yet. Captain Bahanting must be smarting at that time and trying to calm his prominent passenger, probably explaining that it was just one of those occasions and that it could still be remedied.
The wreckaged revealed that Captain Bahanting and SILG Robredo was still buckled when they were retrieved. It indicated confidence and assurance. The student pilot was not in the cockpit anymore and was plucked out floating outside the plane. This meant that the student pilot could no longer contain his fear, still a novice at that and he had already unbuckled himself, ready to jump except that he was still with his poised instructor. Well, for the survivor who must have sensed danger but could not express it in the face of his boss, his demeanor was already in the survival mode. If at all the plane would crash, which he could have imagined earlier having noted the warning blinks, he would have to dare the elements, jump out and fight for himself.
Thus came the end of a tragic story as it began in a happy note.