The transport ministry is looking at allowing airliners to fly above central parts of Tokyo for arrivals and departures to Haneda airport as it tries to accommodate a growing number of international flights.
The number of international flights at Haneda is expected to grow from 90,000 a year to 129,000 by the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
The airport is expected to play a greater role in international flight services, with its proximity to central Tokyo an advantage over Narita International Airport, in Chiba Prefecture, which is currently the main gateway to the metropolitan area for visitors to Japan.
Airplanes fly at low altitudes above residential areas around Osaka International Airport and Fukuoka Airport. But planes use airspace above Tokyo Bay to approach and depart Haneda, and avoid flying above the central parts of the capital.
On a new route suggested for southerly winds, mainly in summertime, airplanes on approach will fly at an altitude of about 900 meters above Saitama and travel southward above bustling central Tokyo areas such as Shinjuku and Shibuya, according to the ministry’s plan.
After descending to an altitude of some 450 meters around Shinagawa Station, the planes will land at Haneda.
By opening this route for arrivals, and another for departures, to meet high demand for daytime flights, the ministry aims to allocate some 39,000 new international arrival and departure slots at Haneda.
In mid-December, the ministry held a meeting at Tokyo’s Ota Ward office, some 4 km from Haneda airport, to brief local residents on the new flight routes.
Some residents grilled ministry personnel about potential noise problems amid concerns it could affect land prices.
In one residential area below a proposed new flight route, noise levels of 80 decibels, roughly the same as those inside a subway train, were expected once flights began.
“Aircraft capabilities have improved over the past few decades and planes have become quieter, but I’m worried about falling objects,” said Mitsushi Okamoto, a 62-year-old self-employed resident in the area.
In 2010, Haneda airport started using a fourth runway and resumed regular international flights for the first time in 32 years.
Figures show the annual number of international flight arrivals and departures increased from 60,000 to 90,000 in 2014, accounting for about 20 percent of the 447,000 flights at the airport.
Still, the combined total of international flight passengers at Haneda and Narita lags behind other Asian airports such as Hong Kong and Seoul.
“Air traffic congestion above Tokyo Bay is reaching the limit,” an official at the transport ministry said. “We need to create new flight routes in order to maintain international competitiveness.”