Transmission problems led crew to land helicopter in soccer field
Stars and Stripes February 11, 2011
YOKOHAMA, Japan — Loose metal particles found in the transmission of their SH-60B helicopter caused crewmembers to land on a Japanese professional soccer team’s field in Hiratsuka city earlier this week, the Navy announced Friday.
The crew chose to land in the field, about 12 miles from Naval Air Facility Atsugi, after a warning light came on in the helicopter, according to the Navy. No one was playing on the field at the time.
Navy officials said that Wednesday’s forced landing was the result of pilots exercising caution.
When the warning light — known as a chip detector light — activates, pilots may scrub their mission and return to base. If they notice unusual sounds, vibrations or other indicators, they’re likely to land at the first safe opportunity, said Lt. Cmdr. Greg Kuntz, spokesman for Commander Task Force 70.
“In this case, they saw the light and believed that they had other indications,” Kuntz said.
Other than indentations caused by the helicopter’s wheels, no significant damage to the field had been confirmed as of Friday.
The Navy apologized to local government officials upset by the second incident involving a U.S. Navy helicopter within a week. A buoy typically used for underwater surveillance fell from a Navy SH-60F Seahawk and crashed into a farm field on Feb. 3.
On Thursday, a council composed of the Kanagawa prefectural government and the cities bordering Naval Air Facility Atsugi filed a complaint to the Japanese Ministry of Defense, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the U.S. Navy, according to the Kanagawa Shimbun newspaper.
The complaint stated that the two incidents have caused anxiety among residents, and called for tighter safety controls.