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U.S. helicopter emergency landing angers village

Date Posted: 2009-04-29

A malfunction aboard an Air Force rescue helicopter forced an emergency landing at Tonaki village, angering residents.

The HH-60 helicopter assigned to Kadena Air Base was returning from a training mission when it developed a fuel system problem that made an emergency landing necessary. Tonaki Village’s helicopter pad was close, and the helicopter landed. A second helicopter continued on to Kadena to obtain repair parts, then returned to Tonaki Village where repairs were accomplished.

Noboru Uehara, the village mayor, was angry, saying “Our heliport is for residents’ emergency use, and not for the American military.” He expressed regrets the helicopter chose to land there, and says “I want the American military to investigate, and request no more disorders for helicopters. He says he’ll demand the Self Defense Force Okinawa branch, as well as the Foreign Ministry Okinawa Office investigate when he lodges a protest after the Golden Week holidays.

The Tonaki Village Office took a more even handed approach to the incident, saying “the helicopter pad is located far away from the village housing area, and there were no fishing boats near the port.” A Village Office staff member says “nobody had any injuries” from the emergency landing. The fuel system was repaired when parts arrived, and the two helicopters left Tonaki Village after 3½ hours and returned to Kadena Air Base.

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