Yokota chopper makes precautionary landing on baseball field
November 4, 2004
YOKOTA AIR BASE, Japan — A UH-1N helicopter crew assigned to the 459th Airlift Squadron made a precautionary landing Tuesday morning on a baseball field near Mount Fuji, 374th Airlift Wing officials said.
The three-member aircrew, performing a visual flight rules training mission on the Kanto Plain outskirts, landed the helicopter safely at 10:40 a.m. in Numazu City in Shizuoka prefecture after detecting a hydraulic system leak, said 1st Lt. Warren Comer, a 374th Airlift Wing spokesman.
“When a light comes on in an aircraft, if it’s an emergency situation, the things most pilots are taught is if you can land now in a safe location, it’s best to do that,” he said. “That’s the better alternative rather than making it a larger incident by not being able to control your aircraft.”
No one was injured and the aircraft was not damaged, Comer said. But it was the second incident involving a Yokota helicopter in three months. On Aug. 19, another UH-1N crew was forced to make a precautionary landing in Yokohama after encountering engine problems.
The two instances appear unrelated, Comer said; grounding the helicopters for an extended safety review is not planned.
“It’s a little early on that. … At the moment, we’re assessing the current situation,” he said. “We just want to fix this problem right now.”
Maintenance crews dispatched to Numazu in another UH-1 from Yokota determined that a failed hydraulic pump led to the leak, he added. The mechanism lets pilots steer aircraft smoothly. “Once it goes out, it can still be flown, but steering becomes much more difficult,” Comer said.
The technicians were replacing the pump Tuesday night; the helicopter was to be flown back to Yokota on Wednesday morning, a 374th Airlift Wing release stated.
“We are extremely grateful for the cooperation and leadership provided by the Shizuoka Police Department and the Fuji Defense Facilities Administration Office in Numazu,” Col. Douglas E. Kreulen, 374th Airlift Wing vice commander, stated in the release. “We are deeply sorry for any inconvenience this may have caused.”
The crewmembers, who were not identified, were on a routine training flight. They took off from Yokota at 10 a.m. Tuesday and were to return by 12:30 p.m., said Mieko Morita, a 374th Airlift Wing spokeswoman. They were returned to the base after the landing.
A Numazu City spokesman said local children use the baseball field, which is near a coast but away from residential neighborhoods. No one was near during the helicopter’s landing, he said.
City officials indicated they’d hoped for more advance warning but praised the crew for avoiding populated areas, he added, saying there were no plans to protest the incident.
Hana Kusumoto contributed to this report.