Grievance filed over aircraft noise at Yokota
Stars and Stripes October 15, 2005
YOKOTA AIR BASE, Japan — Officials from Tokyo Metropolitan Government, five cities and one town neighboring Yokota, filed a grievance letter Tuesday over aircraft noise at the base.
The group asked U.S. military officials to take additional preventive measures following a recent spike in complaints from local residents, said a TMG planning and coordination section official in charge of base issues. Some of the complaints surfaced during Yokota’s last Operational Readiness Exercise that ran Sept. 11-16.
The letter was to the Tokyo Defense Facilities Administration Bureau director, Yokota Defense Facilities Administration Office chief and Col. Scott Goodwin, 374th Airlift Wing commander.
Capt. David Westover, a 374th Airlift Wing spokesman, confirmed late Wednesday that base officials received the written petition requesting “stricter implementation of noise-prevention measures” at Yokota.
“We responded by stating that we understand these concerns and that minimizing noise is a top priority of senior leadership,” Westover said.
He said Col. Douglas Kreulen, 374th Airlift Wing vice commander, will address those issues during Tuesday’s Vice Mayors Council, a quarterly meeting with senior officials from each neighboring municipality, the TMG and the Yokota Defense Facilities Administration Office.
Residents’ noise complaints have climbed since June due to an increase in low-flying aircraft out of Yokota and other U.S. military installations, the letter states.
Each April to September, surrounding communities receive an average of 90 calls about U.S. jet noise, the TMG official said. This year, they received roughly 160.
Westover conceded Yokota officials fielded more noise complaints in the past few months but said most — including 80 of 89 in August — were tied to an incident involving four transient fighter aircraft that couldn’t land because of a temporary base runway closure. They made a routine low pass over the flight line, then departed normally, he said.
The Japanese group alleged that Yokota aircraft flew between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. around Sept. 14 and that many area residents complained of late-night and early-morning jet and siren noise stemming from the exercise.
“There is a concern that this may have negative impact on the relations between Yokota Air Base and local communities,” the letter stated.
Yokota officials say they routinely alert Japanese authorities about scheduled training. “For more than 40 years, Yokota Air Base has limited its night-flying operations as much as possible … to reduce aircraft noise for the citizens of our surrounding communities,” Westover said, adding that quiet hours are in effect from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. daily.
“Flying operations during those times are usually limited to urgent missions such as medical evacuations.”
The Japanese committee made several requests, including reducing noise and eliminating training missions from 8 p.m. to 8 a.m. It also asked Yokota officials to provide more specifics about each exercise and improve response time to complaints and questions.