SANTIAGO, Chile, Nov. 20 (UPI) -- Chile's military is phasing out its remaining CA SA C-212-100 tactical transport aircraft amid local concerns over its safety.
A Chilean air force's Construcciones Aeronauticas S.A. C-212 Aviocar 300DF crashed at sea in September 2011 with the loss of all on board -- three crew members and 18 passengers who were on an earthquake relief mission.
The crash off Robinson Crusoe Island revived calls for the replacement of the aging aircraft, a few of which have been serving both the army and the air force.
Not all criticism within Chile of the tough and multipurpose C-212, used worldwide in challenging terrains, is justified, analysts said.
But the Chilean military has been aiming to replace its C-212s and other older aircraft and has repeatedly asked President Sebastian Pinera's administration for more hardware.
A multibillion-dollar military refurbishment program in neighboring Brazil has given fresh impetus to calls in Chile for a defense overhaul, including a large-scale modernization of the army, navy and air force.
The government's response has been to cite extraordinary spending on reconstruction after the magnitude 8.8 earthquake in February 2010 which devastated parts of Chile.
More than 550 people died in the temblor, more perished from suffered in injuries in numerous aftershocks and the government had to pick up the bill for more than $30 billion in material damage, derailing plans for development spending.
The Chilean army wants to phase out its remaining CASA C-212-100, believed to be at least three out of four delivered in 1978, and the Chilean navy has similar plans. Various versions of the Spanish aircraft are deployed in armed forces across Latin America.
Chilean Army Aviation chief Gen. Ivan Gonzalez told La Tercera newspaper the military wants to sell the aircraft and look for replacements.
The army is also hoping to replace its Cessna T-41 single-engine planes used for pilot instruction.
The Chilean military's case for replacing its C-212 was strengthened by other incidents last year involving the aircraft, two of which happened in Canada and Indonesia.
The C-212 is a short takeoff and landing turboprop medium transport aircraft designed and built in Spain by Airbus. A similar plane is produced in Indonesia under license.
The C-212 is also used for civilian service in Canada, France, Germany, South Africa and the United States.
On Feb. 12, 2011 a C-212-100 operated by Indonesia's Sabang Merauke Raya Air Charter crashed killing all five people on board. An investigation determined the pilot in command was not qualified enough to operate the plane.
On April 1, 2011, a C-212-CC40 operated by Fugro Aviation Canada had to make a crash landing in Saskatoon, SK, causing one death and injuries to the two crew on board.
Supporters of the plane say the aircraft type should not be blamed as Chile considers substitutes for the C-212. The airstrip on the Robinson Crusoe Island in Chile is only about 3,000 feet long and is subject to strong winds, they point out.