Two helos back at Kadena after island landings
May 16, 2003
KADENA AIR BASE, Okinawa — Two Okinawa-based Air Force helicopters made precautionary landings Tuesday on islands southwest of Okinawa after experiencing unspecified difficulties.
According to an 18th Wing press release, a Kadena-based HH-60 rescue helicopter made a precautionary landing on Tonaki Island at 12:40 p.m. The helicopter, assigned to the 33rd Rescue Squadron, remained on the island’s emergency helicopter pad overnight. It experienced problems while on its way to the nearby Desuna Island firing range. The islands are part of the Kerama Island group.
A second helicopter from the 33rd Rescue Squadron sent with maintenance personnel from Kadena Air Base to help the first helicopter also experienced problems, said Sayaka Uechi, an 18th Wing spokeswoman.
It made a precautionary landing on nearby Sand Island as it was en route from Tonaki Island to Kadena to pick up a part, she said. The second helicopter later was able to fly back to Okinawa and arrived at Kadena at 5:30 p.m. The first copter returned to Kadena at 2:05 p.m. Wednesday.
Tonaki Island is about 36 miles from Kadena. Sand Island, which is uninhabited, is about seven miles west of Okinawa.
The incidents drew official requests from local officials and the Japan Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ Okinawa office for a prompt investigation. They also requested that the Air Force take safety measures to prevent such incidents.
Tonaki Mayor Kenzo Higa said he hoped the repair work would be over as soon as possible.
“This also happened three years ago and the emergency helicopter pad was not available for emergency use by the residents for a while,” he said.
“The helipad is there to transport emergency patients and it should be available for residents at all times.”
About 523 people live on Tonaki Island. A Tonaki village official said the crew of the first helicopter told village officials that the aircraft had engine trouble.
“At no time were any of the local residents in danger,” Kadena’s Uechi said.
— Chiyomi Sumida contributed to this report.