On June 4 in the United States, two fighter aircrafts, a Boeing F/A-18E Super Hornet belonging to the U.S. Marine Corps and an AV-8B Harrier belonging to the U.S. Navy, crashed one after the other. The Super Hornet was a part of the United States Forces Japan aircraft carrier the USS George Washington, and occasionally made trips to the Kadena Air Base. The Harrier traveled to bases from Iwakuni to Yuma, Arizona and flew to Kadena frequently, so while it is considered a strictly American affair, it is not unrelated to Okinawa.
Even from just what I can remember, the number of aviation accidents in the United States and in the United Kingdom that have sprung up this year totals seven, including this one. This is extremely strange. Excluding the ones already mentioned, the models that have crashed are the HH-60G Pave Hawk and the MH-60 Black Hawk, both of which are helicopters, and the FA-18 Hornet, which is an attack aircraft. The F/A-18E and the Harrier models that crashed this month have also crashed before — in January and May of this year, respectively. The HH-60G was deployed in Kadena, as was the MH-60. The F/A-18E traveled frequently between Futenma and Kadena. All of these models flew in Okinawan skies. One cannot deny the possibility of a plane crashing in Okinawa.
In the 41 years between Okinawa’s return in 1972 up until 2013, 45 American military aircraft have crashed within the prefecture. This means there has been at least one crash every year. In May of last year, when an F-15 fighter plane affiliated with the Kadena Air Base crashed, the U.S. Air Force resumed flights just two days later, without waiting for investigations into the cause of the crash to be completed.
On top of that, according to the investigation results that were released half a year later, the cause was concluded to be the incomplete functionality of pilot support systems, and the reason behind this incomplete functionality was deemed “yet to be confirmed.” In other words, the cause of the crash has not yet been specified. Yet despite this, these same planes continue to fly over Okinawa as usual. Last year when the batteries of various Boeing 787 aircraft began to smoke, flights were suspended for about four months when the cause of incident was brought to light. It’s like the American military is saying that it is more important to allow pilots to preserve their flying proficiency than to ensure the safety of Okinawan lives. It is unreasonable beyond belief.
Heinrich’s Law points out that for every work-related accident that causes major injuries, there are 29 accidents that cause minor injuries and 300 that do not cause any injuries. From the start of this year, U.S. military aircraft have been having accidents, from plane parts falling to emergency landings, one after another. They should guard against any major incidents and be thorough about their safety measures.
The models that crash frequently should be removed from Okinawa and prevented from flying above urban areas. In addition, the current state of U.S. military aircraft, including base operations, should be drastically reconsidered.
Edited by Kyrstie Lane