Residents near MCAS Futenma seek $10 million in aircraft noise suit
By AYA ICHIHASHI | STARS AND STRIPES Published: October 1, 2018
CAMP FOSTER, Okinawa — A group of Japanese residents seeking millions in compensation over U.S. military aircraft noise pleaded their case in an Okinawa courtroom Friday.
More than 2,800 plaintiffs from Ginowan City want the Japanese government to pay $10 million in damages for what they say is excessive noise out of Marine Corps Air Station Futenma, according to a complaint filed in July in Naha District Court.
“Seventy-three years after the war, we have been facing great danger by a number of emergency landings, crashes and falling objects by aircraft as well as the noise interrupting our daily conversations and causing issues watching TVs and listening to radios,” group representative Kenei Yamashiro, 79, told the court.
“Night flight from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. is supposedly restricted; however, it has been happening and causing serious health issues from sleep deprivation,” he added.
An attorney for the plaintiffs, Osamu Ikeda, said the group doesn’t want to stop the military flights.
“[We are] just asking for the monetary settlement because the majority of the plaintiffs are elderly,” he told Stars and Stripes on Friday.
The government of Japan on Friday asked the group to withdraw the lawsuit. A second hearing is scheduled for Dec. 6.
Such lawsuits have become commonplace and resulted in large government payouts to residents who say they are unfairly subjected to daily overhead flights of U.S. military helicopters, fighter jets and cargo aircraft.
A verdict is expected next spring in a case where 3,417 residents — who were awarded $22.6 million over Futenma noise in 2016 — appealed to the Fukuoka High Court to halt flights at the air station.
In the largest monetary settlement over U.S. military aircraft noise in Japanese history, judges in February 2017 awarded more than $265 million — or about $12,000 per plaintiff — to 22,005 people living around Kadena Air Base.
In October 2017, a Japanese court awarded more than $5.4 million to people living near Yokota Air Base in western Tokyo. Noise from aircraft operating at the base was above the “tolerable limit,” obliging the Japanese government to pay compensation, the judgment said.