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Futenma flight patterns to be modified

Date Posted: 2007-08-11

Helicopter flight patterns at Futenma Marine Corps Air Station will soon be modified to provide additional safety.
New construction will remove trees and steel towers that prevent helicopters from using a safer take off and landing pattern for Marine Corps helicopters. “It’s for safety reasons,” a Self Defense Ministry spokesman says, “so helicopters that have to stop an engine for landing, autorotation, can be safely done.” The changes include a new approach control system, PAPI.
The new flight patterns will also include additional lighting to mark the end of runways. The money will come from the Japanese government.
Funds are being allocated by the Japanese government to fund the project. Japanese Self Defense Agency officials say ¥200 million will be included in the 2007 budget to clear land and remove steel towers in the way of the new flight routes. “We don’t know about the American side’s budget,” the official said. “How much the Americans will spend” is still not clear.
The U.S. and Japan have jointly published documents announcing the changes to flight routes. Already in the works are safety measures, including state-of-the-art technology to guide aircraft to the facility during bad weather. The changes reduce the amount of time helicopters spend over nearby residential areas. The Auto Control function began operating last year.
A U.S. spokesman says every military squadron is being given strong guidance on safety issues. He says the military’s objective is to fly safely, and protect lives of local residents.

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