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Aviation

Japan poised to regain control of more flight routes around Tokyo after negotiating with US military

  • The flight restrictions by the US have forced numerous commercial flights using Haneda airport to detour or fly at certain altitudes to avoid it
  • The US has been returning parts of the airspace it controls to Japan over the years, most recently under a 2006 bilateral accord on the realignment of the US military presence in Japan
PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 18 December, 2018, 4:05pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 18 December, 2018, 10:42pm

Japan is set to agree with the United States that it will control new commercial flight routes in the US military-controlled airspace near Tokyo’s Haneda airport, officials said on Tuesday.

“We are in the final phase of negotiations with the United States,” transport minister Keiichi Ishii told a press conference. Tokyo aims to open the new routes in the spring of 2020.

The transport ministry has been negotiating with the US for increased control of the airspace over Tokyo and its vicinity, which US forces have managed since the post-war period, to boost international flight services ahead of the 2020 Olympics and Paralympics.

The upcoming agreement will not include the return of the airspace to Japan, the officials said.

The flight restrictions by the US have forced numerous commercial flights using Haneda airport to detour or fly at certain altitudes to avoid it, causing air traffic congestion.

The government plans to expand the annual arrival and departure slots at Haneda by up to 39,000 from the current 447,000 in time for the major sporting events.

The US has been returning parts of the airspace it controls to Japan over the years, most recently in 2008 under a 2006 bilateral accord on the realignment of the US military presence in Japan. The return in 2008 is estimated to have allowed Haneda flights to slash some 7,200 hours of flight time annually.

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The new routes will go through part of the Yokota Radar Approach Control airspace, which is controlled by the US military headquartered at the Yokota Air Base in western Tokyo.

The airspace, just west of the airport, has six different levels in altitudes between 2,450 and 7,000 metres and stretches over Tokyo and eight other prefectures.

Although the US had already agreed to Japanese control, negotiations have dragged on as both sides have tried to grapple with how to effectively implement control over flight routes, according to knowledgeable sources.

Since the new flight routes will be set over central Tokyo areas, some residents have voiced concern about excessive noise and parts possibly falling from aircraft.

The transport ministry is planning to hold briefing sessions for local residents in Tokyo, Saitama and Kanagawa prefectures from December to next February.