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HOME  > Past issues  > 2017 January 18 - 24  > US military copter makes emergency landing on farm road in Okinawa
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2017 January 18 - 24 [US FORCES]

US military copter makes emergency landing on farm road in Okinawa

January 22&24, 2017
A U.S. military helicopter on January 20 made an emergency landing on a farm road in Okinawa’s Uruma City. Expressing concern over the frequent accidents involving U.S. military aircraft, Okinawans voiced anger, saying, “The removal of the U.S. Marines is the only measure that will prevent the occurrence of serious accidents.”

The helicopter in question is a state-of-the-art AH-1Z Viper attack helicopter deployed to the U.S. Marine Corps Futenma Air Station in Okinawa’s Nago City since November 2016.

At around 7 p.m. on that day, the chopper took off from the Futenma base to take part in night flight drills near Ikei-jima Island in Uruma City. However, only 20 minutes after takeoff, the helicopter was forced to land on a civilian road, 600 meters away from a resort hotel on the island, due to malfunctions.

On the following day, Japanese Communist Party member of the House of Representatives Akamine Seiken visited the island to hear from residents about the accident.

A resident who witnessed the forced landing said to Akamine, “Because the U.S. forces conduct flight training exercises so often, we always feel anxiety about the possibility of accidents. U.S. bases should be removed.”

Akamine said, “The U.S. military’s frequent flight training drills have caused various mishaps such as the Osprey crash late last year, and have a serious impact on local residents’ daily lives. It is unacceptable for the U.S. military to use the whole of Okinawa as its training grounds.”

Meanwhile, the head of the Defense Ministry’s Okinawa Defense Bureau expressed his intent to allow the U.S. forces to continue flying the Viper despite the latest forced landing. This reveals his stance to put the U.S. military’s operational practices before local residents’ safety.

In 2016, Okinawa saw a series of flight accidents involving U.S. Marine Corps aircraft. Following the Harrier crash at sea north of the prefecture, an FA-18 fighter jet crashed into the Pacific Ocean off western Japan. In December, an MV-22 Osprey crashed near a Nago beach.

* * *

Japanese Communist Party lawmaker Akamine Seiken and other Okinawa-elected parliamentarians on January 23 submitted to the Defense Ministry a written protest criticizing the latest emergency landing of a U.S. Marines helicopter.

Pointing to frequent accidents involving U.S. military aircraft, such as the Osprey crash in December 2016, the document states that it is unacceptable for the Japanese government to take a stance prioritizing the U.S. forces’ operational practices over the safety and security of Okinawans.

The protest document demands a halt to low-altitude flight exercises and training flights hanging objects even over residential areas. It also urges that the unequal, unfair Japan-U.S. Status of Forces Agreement be drastically revised.

Past related articles:
> US soldier parachutes onto farmer’s field from Osprey [January 11, 2017]
> Osprey crash in Okinawa classified as highest in US military’s accident severity scale [December 16, 2016]
> US forces unilaterally resumes Harrier flights without determining cause of crash [October 6&7, 2016]
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