U.S. military helicopter makes emergency landing in Okinawa
A U.S. military helicopter made an emergency landing Friday evening in Okinawa Prefecture, local government and police officials said, the second incident involving U.S. aircraft in just over a month in Okinawa where public opposition is strong to the huge U.S. military presence.
The chopper was an AH-1 attack helicopter based at the U.S. Marine Corps’ Air Station Futenma in Okinawa, a Japanese Defense Ministry source said.
The chopper landed in an attempt to avoid a potential accident as it had mechanical trouble, according to a central government source. The helicopter “conducted a precautionary landing,” the U.S. Marines Corps said in its statement, adding “there was no damage to the aircraft and no injuries.”
The chopper with two crew members landed on a farm path on Ikei Island off the city of Uruma, said police, who received a call from a local man at around 7:40 p.m. saying a helicopter had made an emergency landing.
“This kind of incident provokes anxiety among residents and should never happen,” a prefectural government official said. The prefectural government will lodge a protest with the U.S. military and urge it to avoid similar incidents from happening, the official added.
The incident has reignited safety concerns in the prefecture which hosts the bulk of U.S. military facilities in Japan as it follows a crash-landing on Dec. 13 off the city of Nago of a U.S. Marines Osprey aircraft, which was also stationed at the Futenma base.
The MV22 Osprey crash-landed during a nighttime refueling drill in shallow water some 800 meters from a village in the city, injuring two crew members.
The site of the latest incident is about 1 kilometer from a resort hotel in the island. A male hotel employee in his 30s said, “I’m so relieved that the helicopter did not crash into the building.”
Masanori Tamaki, 60, head of the neighborhood community association in Ikei Island said, “I was afraid that this would happen someday.”
“Why do they ever have to fly the chopper above the island? All the residents here are worried,” he added.