MISAWA AIR BASE, Japan — Widespread Japan Air System flight cancellations Tuesday, triggered by safety concerns, had little effect on those traveling to or from Misawa city, airline officials said — but prolonged groundings could change that.

About 4,900 passengers were stranded Tuesday when JAS canceled 95 domestic flights to check for engine cracks. Among flights canceled were four either departing from or destined for the city of Misawa, including the 12:55 p.m. leg from Tokyo’s Haneda airport to Misawa.

If more flights are grounded, “It could have an effect,” Eairon Brown, site manager for Sato Travel, an official government travel agency at Misawa Air Base, said Tuesday. “As of right now, we have no information that it’s going to cause” an impact. If it does, “We’ll get them to Tokyo somehow.”

Most base residents on leisure travel take JAS Flight 222, the 9:40 a.m. flight to Haneda, to catch an afternoon international flight, said Luna Vandermark, manager of Four Seasons Travel at Misawa Air Base. So far, JAS Flight 222 has not been canceled, she said.

A JAS spokesman told Reuters his company likely would have to continue canceling flights beyond Thursday but provided no details. JAS also canceled 120 domestic flights Monday, affecting some 7,000 passengers. JAS — part of Japan Airlines — Asia’s biggest airline by sales — usually provides about 400 flights a day, mostly domestic.

JAS is inspecting engines from 25 of its MD-81s and MD-87s, aircraft manufactured by McDonnell Douglas, now part of Boeing Co. The engine manufacturer, Pratt & Whitney, found cracks in engine compressor parts during a subsequent check at its New Zealand factory, prompting JAS to order inspections of all MD-81 and MD-87 engine parts.

Pratt & Whitney, an American company, also provides engines to the U.S. Air Force, according to its Web site,

Engine trouble also grounded two JAS planes Jan. 6 and 7, a JAS Corp. spokesman said.

Of the 15 aircraft checked Tuesday, cracks were found in the engines on 12, the spokesman said. The three that passed the inspection have resumed flying; other planes will be repaired, he said.

Inspections were due to end Wednesday.

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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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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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