Search widened for Saudi student pilot who went missing in the Philippines


MANILA: Search efforts for a missing Saudi aviation student and his Filipino teacher will be widened following a decision by Philippines authorities to put ocean sonar scanning on hold.
A spokesman for the Philippines Civil Aviation Authority (CAAP), Eric Apolonio, told Arab News that the search will be “repositioned” to include coastal and inland areas of Occidental Mindoro.
“Unfortunately, after days of unsuccessful sonar scanning in the search area, the sonar operation is temporarily on hold,” he said.
Representatives from the aviation authority are due to meet with Saudi embassy officials in Manila on Wednesday to provide an update on efforts to find the missing Beechcraft Baron 55 (BB-55) trainer aircraft and its two passengers, Abdullah Khalid Al-Sharif, a student of the Orient Flying School, and his flight instructor, Capt. Jose Nelson Yapparcon.
The twin-engine BB-55 operated by Orient Aviation Corp. disappeared from radar shortly after taking off from San Jose airport on May 17.
Personnel from the Philippines Armed Forces and Coast Guard, along with private divers, have been scouring the waters off San Jose since the flight went missing.
Abdullah Al-Bussairy, the Saudi ambassador, also sent embassy staff to assist in the search and investigate the disappearance of the aircraft.
Capt. Patrick Jay Retumban, a spokesman for the Army 2nd Division which has jurisdiction over Occidental Mindoro, confirmed that a meeting was held between a Saudi embassy delegation and CAAP officials on May 31 to discuss the next phase of the search operations.
Discussions centered on the condition of the pilot and aircraft, flight audio recordings before communication was lost, extension of the search operations, and the investigation of three fishermen who found a black backpack belonging to the flight instructor.
Apolonio earlier said that computer-generated information gathered during the sonar search had been brought to Cebu for analysis.
“We’re still hoping that they (Al-Sharif and Yapparcon) will be found safe,” he said.

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