Atsugi flight ops resume, 3 days after parts fell from jet
By STARS AND STRIPES Published: February 10, 2012
YOKOSUKA NAVAL BASE, Japan — An EA-6B Prowler electronic warfare jet took to the skies over Naval Air Facility Atsugi on Saturday, the first flight since a similar jet lost pieces of its airframe in mid-flight earlier this week.
The flight was in preparation for transfer back to the United States, Atsugi officials said. Five Vietnam-era Prowlers based at Atsugi are scheduled to be replaced by advanced EA-18G Growlers and will transfer to the U.S. “sometime next week,” base spokesman Greg Kuntz said Saturday.
On Monday, Navy officials said only that the Prowlers would be transferred in early spring. The Wednesday incident did not affect the transfer schedule, Kuntz said.
At about 2 p.m. Wednesday, a Prowler was on its landing approach when it lost both a panel from the port mid-engine door and a tailpipe piece. The debris landed on both sides of the base fence, and a small piece struck a moving Japanese vehicle off base.
Although no one was injured, the incident caused concern among Navy officials, who are sensitive to local complaints about the base. For many years, civic groups have repeatedly filed multimillion-dollar lawsuits against the Japanese government over noise complaints at the base.
The Japanese organizations have also lodged complaints following other instances where U.S. aircraft have lost equipment while flying.
In February 2011, a sonar buoy fell from a Navy SH-60F Seahawk helicopter and crashed into a farm field.
Flights at Atsugi were grounded Thursday and Friday during an “operational pause” initiated because of the incident, Kuntz said.
“Even though the problem was isolated to the EA-6B, it gave each squadron a chance to stop, look at each aircraft and do training with each and every person in their squadron,” Kuntz said.
After leaving Atsugi, the Prowlers will be sent to Naval Air Station Whidbey Island, in Washington.