President Rodrigo Duterte on Friday said the Philippine Air Force (PAF) would soon do away with commissioning Huey helicopters for their frequent involvement in fatal crashes.

In his visit to the Kuta Heneral Teodulfo Bautista Headquarters in Jolo, Sulu, Duterte said the military would be better served if the use of Huey helicopters was stopped.

“Marami pa ba ‘yang Huey na ‘yan? Naiwan? Hindi, palitan ko na sana. Wala ng… Maano na talaga ‘yan, luma na,” he said.

The Huey helicopters the military use are Vietnam War-era flyers, which have been reconditioned for modern-day use.

PAF grounded all of its Huey helicopters following a crash last week in Bukidnon, where seven soldiers died.

The incident was the fourth Air Force rotorcraft to go down in six months and the third that involved Huey helicopters.

“Maski na sabihin mong ano — maintenance ano. The theory kasi, if you are a pilot… I used to fly once. Noong bata ako, lumilipad ako… The theory is an airplane can fly forever but theory lang ‘yan… ‘yang isang — minsan sumasabog,” Duterte said.

Duterte suggested buying six to seven new helicopters.

The PAF recently commissioned the first six of 16 Polish-made Sikorsky S-70i Black Hawk helicopters ordered in 2019 as part of its modernization program.

The remaining 10 units are expected to be delivered within the first quarter of 2021.

The helicopters are being procured by the Philippine government under a $241.5-million government-to-government contract to meet the Horizon 2 phase of the Revised Armed Forces of the Philippines Modernization Program. John Ezekiel J. Hirro