AF pilot charged for Nago landing
NAHA, Okinawa — Okinawa police have forwarded charges against the Air Force pilot of a Cessna 172 that made an emergency landing Oct. 24 on Okinawa after running out of fuel.
A police spokesman said Tuesday the pilot, an unnamed lieutenant colonel, is suspected of negligence and failing to file a flight plan with local authorities. Custody of the suspect has not been sought.
An Air Force investigation into the incident found that the pilot of the plane owned by the Kadena Aero Club was forced to land in a sugarcane field in a rural area of Nago. The 45-year-old pilot failed to properly gauge how much fuel was needed for a round-trip flight from Kadena Air Base to Amami Island, the report stated.
The plane developed engine failure and struck several power lines during the emergency landing, according to police. The pilot and three passengers were not seriously injured.
The Aero Club was grounded for more than a month while the 18th Wing devised new safety measures that require mandatory refueling on all islands more than 90 minutes from Kadena and paying greater attention to preflight paperwork.
"We’re not in a position to comment on the Nago Police Station’s legal proceedings as it’s a local law enforcement matter," said 18th Wing spokesman Maj. John Hutcheson. "Due to the Privacy Act, we will not release the pilot’s name."
He did, however, dispute one of the charges.
"The pilot filed a flight plan with Amami Island airport on 23 Oct.," he wrote in response to a Stars and Stripes query.
The negligence charge, cited as "Violation of the Act Against Prejudicing Safe Operation of Aircraft," carries a maximum sentence of three years in prison or a fine of up to 200,000 yen (about $2,000). Failing to file a flight plan comes with a maximum fine of 500,000 yen (about $5,000).