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YOKOTA AIR BASE, Japan — U.S. Transportation Command and Northwest Airlines have struck a deal to extend the biweekly Patriot Express flights into September.

The U.S. military’s only chartered commercial air service in the Pacific will pass through Yokota on Sept. 3-4 and Sept. 17-18 on a roundtrip flight from Seattle-Tacoma International Airport to Kadena Air Base, Okinawa.

That follows the same schedule and route put in place last week when Northwest began providing a Boeing 747, which replaced its smaller Airbus 330.

The flight is also set to stop on Yokota on July 24-25, Aug. 7-8 and Aug. 20-21.

Alan Ouellette, the current operations branch deputy chief for U.S. Forces Japan, said TRANSCOM is in discussions with Civil Reserve Air Fleet carriers on plans for October and beyond. Officials remain hopeful Patriot Express will resume a weekly rotation and returns to its traditional "Friday-Saturday" slot for Yokota and Kadena.

"We should know more soon," Ouellette said. "USTRANSCOM is negotiating for weekly missions, but we don’t have anything definite yet."

The 747 has about 100 more seats than the A330 — roughly 400 total — but the switch to flying every other week likely means fewer available seats overall this summer and "could mean fewer Space-A possibilities," Ouellette said.

But TRANSCOM’s commitment to the Patriot Express is the only reason it’s around at all this summer, USFJ officials say.

After former carrier ATA Airlines went bankrupt in early April, military officials had to scramble to keep Patriot Express in the air and wound up landing an agreement with Northwest to continue the mission.

"Rest assured, USTRANSCOM, [Air Mobility Command, Pacific Command] and USFJ are working hard to keep the Patriot Express flying between Japan and Seattle," Ouellette said, "and we hope the weekly missions will return in October."

For the latest AMC flight information, call DSN 225-7111 at Yokota and DSN 634-2159 at Kadena.


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