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

Saudi student pilot Abdullah Khalid Al-Sharif (right), Capt. Jose Nelson Yapparcon, his flight instructor.
Updated 05 June 2019

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

  • The twin-engine BB-55 disappeared from radar shortly off San Jose airport in Mindoro Island on May 17
  • Flight instructor Jose Nelson Yapparcon and Abdullah Khalid Al-Sharif, a student of the Orient Flying School, were on board.

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.


Saudi Arabia's envoy to UK: We won’t allow Iran to meddle in region 

Updated 25 January 2020

Saudi Arabia's envoy to UK: We won’t allow Iran to meddle in region 

  • “You cannot give in to a country like Iran because they will see it as a sign of weakness,” Prince Khalid said
  • The ambassador encouraged people to visit his country before forming an opinion of it

LONDON: Riyadh does not seek conflict with Tehran but will not let “Iran’s meddling in the region” go unchecked, said the Saudi ambassador to Britain. 
“We do not seek conflict. We do not seek escalation. We have always been supporters of taking a firm stand against Iran. Our issue is not with the people of Iran, it is with the regime running the country,” Prince Khalid bin Bandar bin Sultan told the Daily Telegraph. 
“But we do not believe in appeasement. At no point in history has appeasement proved to be a successful strategy. You cannot give in to a country like Iran because they will see it as a sign of weakness.”
France, Germany and the UK, three of the signatories to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), triggered a “dispute resolution mechanism” recently in response to Iran ramping up its nuclear program in violation of the deal.
Prince Khalid criticized the JCPOA because it does not address “all the other things that Iran” is doing in the region.
“Iran’s meddling in the region is as challenging as the nuclear program. This is why we were concerned with the nuclear deal,” he said.
The ambassador also touched on recent allegations that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman was involved in hacking the phone of Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos.
“It is very easy for people to throw these unsubstantiated allegations against Saudi Arabia because they know that it is very difficult for Riyadh to defend itself when it does not have proper access to the details,” Prince Khalid said.
“We need to see the evidence before we make any response, because the evidence made public so far is circumstantial at best.”
Saudis do not always represent themselves well because they are “a reticent people and our culture does not push us to talking about ourselves,” he said. “We need to do a better job on showing the world who we really are.” 
The ambassador, who was appointed last year, encouraged people to visit his country before forming an opinion of it. 
“There are a lot of misconceptions about Saudi Arabia. We want people to come and see Saudi Arabia for themselves, and not rely on what they have read somewhere or heard somewhere to form their opinion of the country,” he said.
“There is plenty to see, and you will find a warm, generous and hospitable people there waiting to greet you.”