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Navy sends divers to search for 2 missing pilots, Air Force grounds all trainer planes

MANILA, Phlippines -- Navy deep-sea divers will scour the waters off Lamonja Island, Cavite to search for the two missing pilots of the ill-fated SF 260 plane as the Air Force grounded its remaining six trainer planes following the incident.

Air Force spokesman Lt. Col. Miguel Ernesto Okol said that with the aid of a seabed mapping ship with sonar tracking device, rescuers were able to identify an area where the plane could have crashed. The area was identified as 1x1.2 nautical square miles south southwest of Lamonja Island, or about 5 kilometers west of the island of Corregidor.

This was based on accounts from fishermen in the area.

Rescuers will dive 180 feet down to look for wreckage of the plane and the missing pilots. Elite divers from the Navy, Coast Guard, and deep-sea divers will look for the pilots, Okol said. 

"Yesterday we contracted the services of a ship that mapped the seabed and we were able to pinpoint possible targets," he said.

Probe underway

The Air Force has launched an investigation into the incident as it grounded six of the remaining SF260 TP planes in the process.

The trainer plane that crashed was of the turbo-propeller kind and was procured last 1994. Okol said the two pilots were undergoing contact proficiency training when the incident occurred.

"There was no distress signal, no mayday," he said.

"We cannot deduce what really happened and the debris we have now are not enough to provide us with conclusive data," Okol added.

Last week's search only yielded a seat foam, a helmet, tip tank, and a cover.

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