A week after the Jan. 1 Noto Peninsula earthquake, the Shimoyama area in Wajima, Ishikawa Prefecture, was still cut off, with a road along a cliff overlooking the Sea of Japan having been gouged out by a landslide.

What brought supplies such as food and water to the isolated residents was a BK117 helicopter from Gifu Prefecture. Etsushi Yamada, 56, director of Gifu Prefecture’s disaster prevention aviation center, says the New Year’s Day quake served as a reminder of how useful helicopters are in times of disaster, as they can drop supplies and carry people even when roads are blocked.

The BK117, which has been adopted by Gifu Prefecture and many other municipalities for disaster aid, is the first helicopter developed in Japan. It is produced at Kawasaki Heavy Industries’ Gifu plant, located adjacent to the Air Self-Defense Force's Gifu Air Base in the city of Kakamigahara, which has the oldest existing runway in Japan.