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Air show grounded; festival to continue

Date Posted: 2004-09-10

The roar of Thunderbirds F-16 jet engines will not be heard over Kadena Air Base during next week’s AmericaFest.

Lt. Gen. Thomas Waskow, Commander, U.S. Forces Japan, signed the order grounding the U.S. Air Force aerobatics team from a scheduled performance Sept. 15. He made the decision several days ago after consultations with the Kadena Air Base commander, Brig. Gen. Jan-Marc Jouas, who supported canceling the performance “in light of sensitivities expressed by local and national Japanese officials.”

The Tripartite Liaison Council, headed by Kadena Town Mayor Miyagi Tokujitsu, had demanded the military stop the show, citing fears and concerns from Okinawa citizens there could be another accident on the island. Those fears were driven by the Aug. 13 crash of a Marine Corps helicopter onto the grounds of Okinawa International University in Ginowan, only a few miles from Kadena.

Until the crash, the mayors had favored the Thunderbirds performance at Kadena during the two-day AmericaFest, the first to be held since 2001. After the crash, Miyagi said “under the present circumstances, it would be nearly impossible to obtain the understanding and support of the Okinawa people for such a show.”

The Thunderbirds are still slated to perform Sept. 30 at Misawa Air Base, as well as at two anniversary events on JASDF bases.

The AmericaFest itself will run as scheduled on August 14 and 15.

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