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A tiny aircraft piece that tore a hole in the roof of a Japanese industrial building last weekend near Atsugi, Japan, belonged to an F/A-18C Hornet assigned to the USS Kitty Hawk’s Carrier Air Wing 5, Navy officials confirmed Thursday evening.

Lt. Cmdr. John Bernard, Carrier Group 5 spokesman, said air wing officials traced the metal object to the F/A-18C by matching part numbers to maintenance records.

Measuring 2 inches by 3.6 inches, the fragment was found on the roof of Oiles Corporation in Fujisawa city, about 4 miles south of Atsugi. It was discovered after a repairman was called to fix the building’s roof, which started leaking over the weekend, a Fujisawa city spokesman said. The leak was from a 4-by-6-inch hole created by the impact of the aircraft part, which weighed about 8.5 ounces, the city official said, noting the piece bore a series of numbers and letters.

It’s not known exactly when the part hit the roof, officials said.

Bernard said air wing officials still are investigating the incident to try to pinpoint from which F/A-18C the debris fell and why.

“I don’t know if we will be able to determine that,” he said.

The Kitty Hawk’s F/A-18s operate out of Atsugi Naval Air Facility near Tokyo.

The stray part was a shielding component for the wing and mounts on an aircraft, Bernard said.

Oiles Corporation called the Fujisawa city office earlier this week after discovering the metal object, and city officials notified Kanagawa Prefectural Office and Yokohama Defense Facilities Administration Bureau, according to the Fujisawa city official. Bernard said the Navy learned of the incident Tuesday and immediately sent air wing representatives to the Fujisawa factory to determine what the object was.

“It’s uncommon for any part to fall off an aircraft,” Bernard said. “The Navy takes its safety record very seriously. That safety record includes making sure things don’t fall. We would be very poor stewards of the environment … and of other people’s safety if we didn’t take very seriously things falling off” airplanes.

“It’s not a situation to be taken lightly,” he said, “and it’s not.”

Fujisawa city officials submitted a letter of protest this week to Atsugi Naval Air Facility Commander Capt. Reed Eckstrom and Yokohama DFAB officials.

“Fortunately, although there were no injuries, the incident could have led to an accident that could have endangered lives,” the letter stated.

Bernard said it’s unlikely any Hornets would be grounded. At this point in the investigation, “we have no reason to believe that we would” do so, he said.

Fujisawa city officials said two years ago, a falling part from an airplane assigned to Atsugi NAF put a hole in the roof of a private garage.

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Jennifer reports on the U.S. military from Kaiserslautern, Germany, where she writes about the Air Force, Army and DODEA schools. She’s had previous assignments for Stars and Stripes in Japan, reporting from Yokota and Misawa air bases. Before Stripes, she worked for daily newspapers in Wyoming and Colorado. She’s a graduate of the College of William and Mary in Virginia.
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