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Letter of Protest from Governor Onaga to Lt. Gen. Nicholson with regard to Emergency Landing into Flames of CH-53E (English translation of the original Japanese document)

Lieutenant General Lawrence D. Nicholson
Commanding Officer
III Marine Expeditionary Force
United States Forces Japan

Re: Emergency Landing into Flames of CH-53E (Protest)

It was announced that a CH-53E Super Stallion, which belongs to MCAS Futenma, made an emergency landing at civilian area in Takae district of Higashi Village after an inflight fire approximately at 5:20PM on October 11, 2017.

Regarding aircraft based at MCAS Futenma, an MV-22 Osprey conducted a shallow landing off the coast of Nago City in December, 2016 and the other crashed into sea off the east coast of Australia. In addition, Ospreys repeatedly made emergency landings at Ie Jima Auxiliary Airfield, Amami Airport, Oita Airport, and New-Ishigaki Airport. CH-53E Super Stallion also made an emergency landing at Kumejima Airport in June, 2017. Therefore, anxieties over aircraft accidents by the U.S. Forces have been growing unprecedentedly among the people of Okinawa.

This accident caused additional anxieties among the residents of Okinawa who are forced to live with the U.S. military bases. This case also raises serious doubts and distrust concerning the aircraft maintenance and the safety management put in place by the U.S. military.

Following the emergency landing into flames of a CH-53E, we, the Okinawa Prefectural Government, called for suspension of flight operation of the same type of helicopter until effective preventative measures are taken. However, the U.S. Forces unilaterally notified us of resuming the flight of the aircraft on October 17, 2017 and enforced the resumption next day without providing us with explanation about the cause of the accident and preventative measures for this case. Such operation by the U.S. military is utterly unacceptable.

In addition, we requested for permission to conduct swift onsite survey in order to grasp situation at the accident site and dispel fears of local residents. However, it is extremely regrettable that the survey was put into practice in an insufficient manner despite the site was civilian area.

We firmly request the U.S. Forces to make convincing explanation and respond to the accident in order to protect lives and properties of the residents of Okinawa.

Takeshi Onaga
Governor of Okinawa Prefecture

Note: This document has been translated from the Japanese original for reference purposes only. In the event of any discrepancy between this translated document and the Japanese original, the original shall prevail.