CAPTAIN RODOLFO “RUDY” F PETICAN had a long and satisfying career as a C-130 transport pilot in the PAF and the civilian sector.
Originally from Baguio City, Capt. Rudy graduated from Baguio Colleges Foundation. He first joined the Philippine Air Force after he graduated from the Philippine Military Academy as a member of class 1975 and later got his military pilot’s wings after graduated as a member of class 1976B from the PAF Flying School in Lipa City, Batangas.
He served for 13 years with the 220th Airlift Wing at Mactan flying C-130 transports ferrying troops and supplies all over the Philippines.
“We stayed at Mactan Air Base after our marriage from 1981-1988,” said his wife Rosie Docdocil-Petican, a lumad Kagay-anon. “We settled back in Cagayan de Oro in 1988 when Rudy was already hired by TransAfrik based in Angola, Africa.”
He next worked for Philippine Air Lines flying the Hawker Siddeley HS-748 aircraft, then went on to help Aboitiz Air Cargo organize their C-130 fleet operations.
TransAfrik is a private airfreight company owned by a German national that specialized in ferrying supplies to risky combat zones in Africa. For many years it has performed relief flights for relief organizations such as Caritas, Red Cross, UNICEF, Lutheran World Federation and Care International.
It has also conducted several refugee evacuations (including logistics supplies and medical evacuations) from war zones in co-ordination with humanitarian organizations, as well as various world-wide operations for United Nations Forces (i.e. UNAVEM 1 & 2, MONUA in Angola, UNSCOM in Somalia, UNTAC in Cambodia and now MONUC in Congo). Many of these operations have involved logistic supplies and medical evacuations.
Initially, TransAfrik employed six Filipinos including Capt. Petican as pilots of the C-130 aircraft of a diamond mine company ferrying supplies from Luanda, capital of Angola to diamond mines in Cafunto and Dundo.
The first Filipino pilot to perish during TransAfrik’s operations was Chief Pilot Ramon Dumlao who previously worked with the Philippine Aerospace Development Company (PADC) whose C-130 aircraft crashed while ferrying supplies over an area controlled by Angolan UNITA rebels.
TransAfrik expanded their operations later on after the United Nations contracted them to ferry supplies in various African countries. The fleet expansion started with the acquisition of a C-130 from South Africa eventually reaching a fleet of fifteen C-130s and seven Boeing 727s at the height of the company’s operations from 1988 to 1997.
Capt. Petican who was now Director of Operations coordinated the fleet supported by eighteen Filipino pilots, and other flight crew together with pilots from other countries.
TransAfrik’s operations under the United Nations were wide ranging from Cambodia to Africa and in the Middle East through Mosul in Kurdistan, Tajikistan, Pakistan and Afghanistan.
TransAfrik’s pilots airlifted foreign nationals including French expatriates out of Brazzaville in 1995, during the civil war in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Then in 1998, during the infamous Rwandan genocide and civil war, French and Belgian nationals were evacuated from Kigali, capital of Rwanda.
In 1993, they also air-dropped food supplies over Somalia and Southern Sudan during the great famine and conflict in the East African area.
They even ferried a Somalian warlord during the peace negotiations. TransAfrik’s operations went as far as East Africa in Uganda and Tanzania.
TransAfrik suffered its greatest personnel loss ferrying supplies and personnel during their high-risk operations in Afghanistan while subjected to Taliban anti-aircraft fire.
During one trip in October 2010, a C-130 crashed near Kabul after it slammed into a mountainside killing 6 Filipinos onboard including retired Major General Rene Badilla (PMA class 1975) of the 220th Heavy Airlift Wing, Captain Henry Bulos, and crewmembers, Nilo Medina and Wilo Elbanbuena.
Capt. Petican himself evacuated five ABS-CBN news reporters from Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan. He recounted that due to intense rebel fire, they had to use a tight spiral descent in order to land at Bagram Air Base near Kabul.
Another route they used to carry food supplies took them from Islamabad, Pakistan to the Republic of Tajikistan.
Capt. Petican still soldiers on to this day as Director for Operations of TransAfrik making a vital contribution in the fight against hunger. He has had at least 30,000 hours of flying time in his 35 years of flying as line pilot, instructor pilot, test pilot, ferry pilot and simulator instructor.
In his words, “My total number of flying years since I graduated from the Philippine Air Force Flying School is 45 years, and I can thank God that with that so much time and years that I’ve been flying I never had any accident, major or minor.”
“We operate on small and unprepared runways in all weather conditions, without navigation and communication equipment, so we just rely on our experience and competence in handling our aircraft and familiarity of the terrain. I am just happy that I survived all the dangers and challenges of our flying operations.”
“Our company motto is: ONLY THE TOUGH SURVIVE.”
In a later update to this story provided by Mrs. Petican, she informed us that Capt. Rudy served with TransAfrik for 28 years until his retirement in 2016 at the age of 65, but still visited the company once a year in 2017, 2018 and 2019 as their Check Pilot prior to the onset of the covid-19 pandemic.
Although they still visit Cagayan de Oro every six months, the entire family has moved to Houston, Texas with all their children and all 13 of Rosie’s siblings. Except for Rudy who still has two years to go till he gains US citizenship, all are already US citizens but still maintain their dual Filipino citizenship. They were planning to come home for the Cagayan de Oro Fiesta this August but have moved their next trip to November due to the rise in covid cases in the city.
(Originally published by the author as “Story of a PAF Veteran: A Proud And Seasoned “Accident Free” C-130 Pilot”, with updates courtesy of Mrs. Rosie D. Petican through Mike Baños)
About Transafrik International
Since 1984 Transafrik has supported the worldwide air cargo industry. Operations in Angola, where both commercial fleets are based, focus on servicing the mining and oil exploration requirements for multi-national corporations. Transafrik also provides logistical support and expertise for major relief organizations such as the United Nations and Red Cross.
In 1989 Transafrik was awarded the contract to transport some 15,000 refugees from various areas within Angola to Namibia in advance of the election and prior to Namibian independence. Transafrik exceeded all targets and were highly praised by the U.N.H.C.R Project Team. Over 2000 hours were flown on two Hercules in passenger mode configuration, necessitating the specialist training of staff, the provision of special equipment for passengers and the arrangement of suitable insurance cover.
From 1988 to 1989 700 hours were flown in a two phase project for the Angolan arm of the World Food Program, urgently transporting grain from Luanda to points inside the country to alleviate shortages caused by drought. One Hercules was utilized, averaging 300 hours a month.
From 1990 to 1991 Transafrik was awarded a World Food Program contract to airlift food within Ethiopia. During eight months of operations 4,900 flight hours were flown over the course of over 2,000 flights. Mobilization was effected at very short notice and the operation included the most intensive utilization ever recorded on Hercules aircraft, regularly flying 20 hours per day.
In 1993, Transafrik obtained the SONANGOL (Angolan Petroleum Company) contract to supply the various outlying cities with fuel. This is an intensive 18 hours per day operation.
From 1993 to the present day, Transafrik has assisted the World Food Program in a major food airlift operation. The present operation requires Transafrik to perform up to 30 aid flights per day in the Hercules and Boeing 727s.
In 1995 Transafrik was awarded a contract from the United Nations to provide airlift operations from Bahrain and Iraq in relation to the UNSCOM (United Nations Special Commission) mission.
Towards the end of 1997 Transafrik was awarded the contract for Airdrop Operations in Sudan and Somalia under the World Food Program. Transafrik has for many years performed aid relief flights for various organizations, many of which are still ongoing. Relief organizations served by Transafrik include Caritas, Red Cross, UNICEF, Lutheran World Federation and Care International.
Transafrik has performed several refugee evacuations from war zones in co-ordination with humanitarian organizations, as well as various world-wide operations for United Nations Forces (i.e. UNAVEM 1 & 2, MONUA in Angola, UNSCOM in Somalia, UNTAC in Cambodia and now MONUC in Congo). Many of these operations have involved logistic supplies and medical evacuations.