MCAS Futenma helicopter’s blade tape falls on Uranishi Junior High, raising concerns about Marine Corps aircraft maintenance

MCAS Futenma helicopter’s blade tape falls on Uranishi Junior High, raising concerns about Marine Corps aircraft maintenance

June 6, 2019 Ryukyu Shimpo

Around 3:30 p.m. on June 4 an object that appears to be a piece from a U.S. military aircraft fell onto the tennis court of Uranishi Junior High School in Toyama, Urasoe City. On June 5 the U.S. Marine Corps in Okinawa assessed the object had fallen off of a CH-53E helicopter from Futenma Air Station. The object is a piece of blade tape, which can be applied to Marine Corps helicopter blades. A Marine Corps official assessed that judging by the object’s weight and size, it “poses no threat to people or property.” The official emphasized that the “1st Marine Aircraft Wing is inspecting all aircraft that have blade tape and will remove or replace any blade tape that is found to be degraded.”

Due to successive U.S. military-related accidents, such as the incident in December 2017 in which a CH-53E helicopter’s window fell onto the grounds of Futenma Daini Elementary School in Ginowan City, opposition from within Okinawa and Urasoe City has increased.

On the evening of June 5 Okinawa Vice Governor Kiichiro Jahana spoke with the press and said: “We must conclude that the U.S. military’s maintenance and control of its helicopters are insufficient. It stirs concern among people in the prefecture and is extremely deplorable.” He thinks that the CH-53E helicopters should not be flown until the U.S. military has investigated the cause of the accident, announced its findings, and disclosed all related information.

That same day, Urasoe City Mayor Tetsuji Matsumoto held an urgent interview at the Urasoe City Office, and expressed that he wants the U.S. and Japanese governments to take steps to maintain safety, including stopping flights of CH-53E helicopters.

According to the Okinawa Prefectural Government and the U.S. Marine Corps in Okinawa, the object that fell is rubber, measures 18 centimeters long and 12 centimeters wide, weighs 20 grams, and is meant to be applied to the forward edge of helicopter blades to protect them from deterioration and damage. In Okinawa, this blade tape is used not only on the U.S. Marine Corps’ CH-53E helicopters, but also its AH-1 helicopters, its UH-1 helicopters, and its MV-22 Osprey.

In the evening on June 4, even after the part fell in Urasoe, the U.S. military conducted CH-53E helicopter training at Futenma Air Station. It was confirmed that a CH-53E helicopter was serviced in the evening on June 4 on an aircraft parking apron at Futenma Air Station.

(English translation by T&CT and Erin Jones)

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