EXPLAINER: Presidential Helicopters, Aircraft Called 'Bluebirds'

PHOTO BY Bershka

When the schedule requires, the president of the Philippines can summon planes and helicopters to ferry him or her to official functions, which on some days can start in Luzon and and end in Mindanao.

These aircraft are under the 250th Presidential Airlift Wing or Bluebirds, whose mission is to provide the president, the Cabinet and visiting dignitaries air transportation. They are called Bluebirds because of the white and sky blue paint job that's distinct from the military green or deep blue color of jets and choppers in the main Armed Forces fleet.


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President Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr. uses a Gulfstream G280 jet as his main "command and control" aircraft and a Bell 412 for his helicopter, Col. Ramon Zagala, the head of the Presidential Security Group, told reportr.

The Presidential Airlift Wing is a unit under the PSG, he said.


When the president charters a commercial flight, mostly on overseas functions, the call sign automatically reverts to PR 001, in the same way that for the U.S. president, any airplane with the leader on it is called Air Force One or Marine One if it's a helicopter.

Vice President Sara Duterte trended on social media in mid-September after she posted a photo of herself on one of the presidential choppers, a Bell 412 workhorse. Her office denied that she uses it to fly home to Davao and threatened to take legal action against those who say otherwise.

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"Kung titingnan po natin ang mga local VIPs na tinutukoy dito ay ang ating mga high government officials and considering that our VP is the second highest leader of the land nararapat lang po na bigyan natin ng suporta ang mga movements ng ating vice president lalo na if she is acting or performing her mandate on behalf of the president," said Col. Consuelo Castillo, spokeswoman of the Philippine Air Force.

Castillo, who was previously assigned with the Bluebirds, told CNN Philippines that it was unlikely that the Bell 412 could be used to fly from Manila to Davao given the distance that will require numerous refuel stops. That route is roughly three hours by commercial jet and would take half a day by chopper, she said.

"Naku po, we can attest to that na hindi po araw araw ang paggamit ng ating helicopters, tulad po ng sinabing paguwi sa Davao, I presume po ang inaasume nila is travel from Manila to Davao," she said.

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