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JASDF F-15 incident closes Naha Airport

Date Posted: 2011-12-23

An incident involving a Japanese Air Self Defense Forces F-15 fighter this week forced a temporary closure of Naha International Airport, riling holiday travelers.

The Monday afternoon incident shut down the runway to both arrivals and departures from about 12:30 p.m. Monday until well after 2 p.m., irritating travelers and frustrating airline staff personnel trying to explain why flights were not flowing smoothly. The departure lounge was crowded from 2:00 p.m., and a tourist who came to Okinawa with friends from Tokyo, Hiroko Kanei, 67, was typical in complaining “This time we had fun during our Okinawa travel but it is a pity that we got involved in such a trouble at the last moment.” She said “I hope that the Self-Defense Forces of Japan will bring the cause of the accident to light as soon as possible.”

At the first floor of Naha Airport, in the arrival lounge, delayed flights began arriving one after another from 4:00 p.m. Passengers showed looks of frustration on their faces, and one who said she had waited about four hours inside a plane, Hatsumi Higa, 46, said “I was confused because I couldn’t know how long a time it would take. I wanted more information to be given on the plane.”

A person who had come to meet his arriving family members, 77-year-old Kazuo Onaga, was waiting for a flight that his daughter and grandchild were on board, only to learn that the flight had been diverted and landed at Kagoshima Airport for a time because of the runway closing. Onaga said “If the airport was not in a joint use between the JASDF fighters and civilian aircraft, this kind of trouble would not have occurred.”

The flight of about 200 students from Aso High School in Ibaraki prefecture was going to land at 1 p.m., but was diverted to Kagoshima Airport just before landing at Naha. That flight finally landed at Naha Airport at 8:40 p.m. after going back to Haneda Airport. The students showed looks of boredom on their faces because they spent a long time on the plane without any chance of getting out.

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