U.S. completes return of airspace west of Haneda

Kyodo News

The United States returned portions of U.S. military-controlled airspace west of Tokyo’s Haneda airport to Japan on Friday, the Public Affairs Office of the U.S. forces in Japan said.

The transfer was part of a 2006 bilateral agreement on realigning the U.S. military presence in Japan.

The transfer of control from the radar approach control authorities at U.S. Yokota Air Base in western Tokyo will allow commercial planes to take routes at lower altitudes when flying westward from Haneda airport. This will help reduce flight times, which will save on fuel, reduce costs and cut carbon dioxide emissions.

The move ends a system of “flexible use” of certain parts of airspace that was in place since September 2006. This entailed control of certain blocks of airspace being temporarily transferred to Tokyo Area Control Center in Saitama Prefecture upon request when the blocks were not required for military purposes.

“Returning the airspace garners good will toward U.S. forces by helping to reduce travel time and pollution in the community,” said Michael Bishop, the 5th Air Force’s deputy operations director. “It also provides better flow control for Japanese air traffic control and Yokota, as well.”

According to the U.S. Public Affairs Office, the benefits of the transfer include reducing flight times by about 7,200 hours per year, saving about 33,000 liters of fuel annually, and reducing airlines’ costs by about ¥10.9 billion per year.