MANILA -- Philippine Air Force (PAF) pilots and aircrews, who flew numerous ground support missions in the five-month battle to retake Marawi City from the clutches of the Maute Group terrorists, were given a heroes' welcome in Villamor Air Base, Pasay City Monday.

Welcoming ceremonies for the initial returning 200 pilots and aircrew were headed by PAF head Lt. Gen. Galileo Gerard Kintanar.

Around 1,007 PAF personnel were deployed in the conflict which started May 23 and lasted until October 23. Planes sent in to the fight include the brand-new FA-50 jet fighters, AW-109 attack helicopters, venerable OV-10 "Broncos", UH-IH "Huey" combat utility helicopters, Bell-412 helicopters, W-3A "Sokol" for rescue and medical evacuation, C-130 and C-295 cargo planes.

Kintanar said these exemplary PAF personnel demonstrated the essence of airpower as these men flew support missions 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

"They symbolize the Air Force at its finest hour and the airmen at their greatest defining moment in recent memory,” the PAF chief added.

Kintanar also stressed that the PAF has flown 1,350 sorties in around 4,900 hours aside from transporting 7,000 soldiers and police personnel aside from evacuating hundreds of wounded personnel during the five-month conflict. (PNA)