An Air Force CV-22B Osprey arrives at Yokota Air Base, Japan, April 5, 2018.

An Air Force CV-22B Osprey arrives at Yokota Air Base, Japan, April 5, 2018. (Stars and Stripes)

YOKOTA AIR BASE, Japan — The U.S. and Japanese governments are working on a timeline for resuming tiltrotor flights over Japan, according to officials from both countries.

On Friday, the Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps lifted a flight ban imposed on V-22 Ospreys after an Air Force tiltrotor crashed off Japan on Nov. 29, killing eight Yokota-based members of Special Operations Command.

A timeline for resuming flights in Japan for U.S. and Japanese tiltrotors “continues to be closely coordinated between the Government of Japan and the Government of the United States,” U.S. Forces Japan said in a statement Friday.

On Dec. 6, the U.S. military grounded about 400 Ospreys after Japan grounded its fleet of 14 during an investigation into the Nov. 29 incident and an August crash in Australia that killed three Marines.

The Air Force cited equipment failure for the most recent crash but was not specific.

“Return to flight timelines after the issuance of flight clearance for the V-22 are based on operational requirements unique to each service and mission profile,” USFJ said in its statement. “V-22 aircraft will only operate after all maintenance, safety and procedural changes have been implemented.”

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin met with top service leaders March 1 and endorsed their plans for a safe and measured return to operation, according to The Associated Press.

Naval Air Systems Command lifted the flight ban Friday, but Austin had asked for a briefing because of the significant safety concerns and the fact that three of the services and a critical ally are involved.

Japan’s Defense Ministry, in a statement Friday, echoed the USFJ announcement.

“The confirmation work between Japan and the United States has recognized that materiel failure that caused the accident has been identified and we believe that flight operations can be resumed safely by taking various safety measures for the concerned failure,” the statement said.

U.S. officials have provided their Japanese counterparts with a detailed explanation of the November accident, Japanese Defense Minister Minoru Kihara told reporters Saturday.

The allies will coordinate closely to come up with a timeline for resuming flights in Japan, he said, according to a transcript of his news conference posted on the ministry’s website.

“We have received an unprecedented level of detailed information from the U.S. side regarding the circumstances and cause of the accident, as well as safety measures,” Kihara said. “We evaluate this as reasonable from the professional standpoint of the Ministry of Defense and the Self-Defense Forces, as well as the standpoint from the operator.”

However, he declined to discuss the details until the U.S. releases an accident report.

The ministry will explain the circumstances and cause of the accident to anxious Japanese residents before flights resume, he said.

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Seth Robson is a Tokyo-based reporter who has been with Stars and Stripes since 2003. He has been stationed in Japan, South Korea and Germany, with frequent assignments to Iraq, Afghanistan, Haiti, Australia and the Philippines.
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Hana Kusumoto is a reporter/translator who has been covering local authorities in Japan since 2002. She was born in Nagoya, Japan, and lived in Australia and Illinois growing up. She holds a journalism degree from Boston University and previously worked for the Christian Science Monitor’s Tokyo bureau.

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