In place for more than a quarter-century, the agreement allowing American and Japanese aircraft to share Misawa Air Base’s runway is considered a model of efficiency by officials from both nations.

Japan Air System, Japan Air Self-Defense Force, Misawa Naval Air Facility and U.S. Air Force are among those agencies regularly using the runway, Misawa Air Base spokesman 2nd Lt. James Bressendorff said, adding the runway handles more than 1,000 flights annually.

“The arrangement has been highly successful,” he said Friday. “We have an impeccable safety record, and it’s a win-win situation for everyone who uses it.”

Various Defense Department aircraft occasionally use the runway, with landing privileges coordinated by U.S. Forces Japan and the Japanese government, he said.

Misawa’s runway originally was developed as a commercial airport in 1952. It shut down in 1965 but resumed flights a decade later when the U.S. Air Force took control of the strip, according to Eiji Komatsu, of Misawa city’s policy coordination department.

“To be able to use the base as a commercial airport, the city believes it has an effect to community development and is a good thing,” Komatsu said. “It had positive effects in welcoming enterprises and large-scale developments.”

Roughly 600,000 passengers came through Misawa Airport in 2002, but with the Shinkansen Hayate bullet-train service now connected to Hachinohe, city officials are anticipating a decrease of 30 percent to 40 percent this year.

The Misawa runway never has had a major security breach or incident, Bressendorff said. Adequate precautions are well-established to safeguard base operations.

“They’re thoroughly understood and enforced by all agencies using the runway,” he said. “We have not had any significant problems or issues that have arisen over the runway that were not quickly and efficiently resolved through the great cooperation we see between all agencies using the runway.”

Komatsu said Misawa city has pledged to continue its runway policies of coexistence and cooperation.

“From the U.S. standpoint, it has been just another example of the outstanding cooperation and teamwork between the base and the local community,” Bressendorff said. “It is a great opportunity to help the city of Misawa while still maintaining safety and security necessary to carry out the Misawa Air Base mission.”

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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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