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Helicopter mishap gives fodder for local politicians

Date Posted: 2003-06-28

A helicopter mishap on MCAS Futenma Saturday afternoon has given local politicians opposing the U.S. military presence in the prefecture another reason to decry the danger the helicopter operations pose for local residents.

According to the Marine Public Affairs Office, the landing gear of a CH-55E helicopter retracted while the aircraft was taxiing on the runway, causing the chopper to come to rest on its belly. No one was injured in the incident, and there was no reported property damage except for the helicopter. However, a report by the local police stated that the helicopter had crash-landed Local politicians immediately started to cry foul.

Ginowan City, in which MCAS Futenma is located, recently elected new Mayor Yoichi Iha, who has sworn to have the MCAS transferred out of Okinawa within five years. Accordingly, the mayor opposes every move the military takes, and every agreement that his predecessor has made including the agreement to build a new military hospital on Futenma Housing Area within Camp Foster. The current hospital is scheduled for demolition and Camp Lester, where it is located, is to be returned.

Another incident caused a stir took place the same day, when an instrument light in the cockpit of a KC-130 aircraft indicated there was some kind of trouble in one of its engines, and the aircraft returned to the air station. The causes of both incidents are under investigation.

Iha wasted no time in criticizing the US Military. "There is again a problem with the notification procedures of the US Military. The US Military is in the position to be aware of the specifics, but they have yet to issue a clear report. They have not fulfilled their responsibility to the residents with a statement," Iha stated.

The Ginowan City Assembly's Base Affairs Committee also made a statement. "Although more than twenty-four hours have passed since the incident, we have been given no information. Even though the accident happened during weekend, the US Military should explain more about the accident," the statement read. The committee intends to hold a special meeting to call the city assembly to lodge a formal protest.

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