Press Conference

Extra Press Conference by the Defense Minister(02:37-02:46 P.M., August 29, 2012)

Extra Press Conference by the Defense Minister
Time & Date 02:37-02:46 P.M., August 29, 2012
Place: In front of Mayor’s office, second floor of the Ginowan city government building
(This is a provisional translation of an announcement by the Defense Minister and the Q&A session at the subsequent press conference for reference purposes only)
The original text is in Japanese.

1. Announcements

None.

2. Questions and Answers

Question:
Just now, you gave your explanation on the accident in Morocco to the Mayor of Ginowan City, and the Mayor mentioned, “It makes no difference to the fact that two crash accidents had occurred.” Can you give us your candid thoughts on having finished the explanation?

Minister:
When I made my previous visit, I also had the chance then to hear directly from the Mayor. Of course, he has been receiving requests from the citizens as the Mayor of Ginowan City that hosts the Futenma Air Station, and there is no change to the fact that this is going to be a rather harsh request for us. As with the previous occasion, I would like to take this with sincerity back home and to report this to the necessary people such as the Minister of Foreign Affairs and the Prime Minister.

Question:
Regarding the report from the Japan side on the accident, it found no problems with the structure of the airframe itself. However, the Mayor just now gave a remark with a nuance implying that concerns over its safety have not been resolved. Do you feel that you will be able to gain the understanding of the local communities and the planned training site with the current explanation?

Minister:
I have also mentioned this to the Mayor, but the motive for my visit this time is to give an explanation as candidly as possible on the accident investigation results for the accident in Morocco. For this week, we have already dispatched our briefing team to Washington, D.C. today for the other accident, so we will be conducting an analysis again to determine the cause of these accidents, and would like to consider in earnest on how its flight safety can be secured, as well as on how we should explain this and what kind of agreement that Japan and the U.S. can come to through the bilateral security committee before coming to a decision. We are not thinking of making a decision simply with the accident in Morocco.

Question:
So, you will be giving an explanation to the Mayor and the Governor for the accident in Florida as well?

Minister:
If my schedule allows me to, I would very much like to do so. However, I cannot simply come on my own terms since I must take the time of the Governor and others, so I would like to do this through coordinating the schedules and events for both sides.

Question:
Mayor Sakima has mentioned that he would like to have this whole deployment plan to be put up for reconsideration. How do you intend to respond to this request?

Minister:
We would like to move on with the overall plan in which not only will we be simply listening to what the U.S. side has given as the cause of the accident in Morocco and Florida, but we will be conducting an independent analysis of this and to confirm its flight safety when considering the situation where the U.S. side is going to deploy this to the units after going through the process of how we will be able to confirm its safety.

Question:
There was a story of the person who went on the (autorotation) simulator in the U.S. You mentioned in the budget committee the day before yesterday that the descent rate was about 5,000 feet per minute. However, in the case of Futenma Air station, the designated traffic pattern calls for flying at a low altitude of around 750 feet from the ground. Has it been confirmed on the simulator whether the autorotation actually works at such low altitudes?

Minister:
From what I have heard from the explanation given by a person who has actually been in one, the simulation simulates the process where it descends in sequence from the top until it finally makes a landing, and several people have experienced this. As I have mentioned in the Diet, although it is said that it has an autorotation function, the descent rate was much higher that for an ordinary helicopter, so I think the autorotation function for the Osprey is somewhat different from the autorotation function found in other helicopters.

Question:
Do you think that the autorotation function will not work with the current altitude of around 750 feet?

Minister:
Not exactly. How flight is to be conducted while maintaining sufficient altitude for safety is one of the important issues to be considered in the bilateral security committee in the future. We are currently discussing this with the U.S. side, but no conclusion has been reached so far.

Question:
In that case, do you mean that the traffic pattern is currently being revised, or it is going to be revised?

Minister:
Not the traffic pattern, but the altitude. We are currently in discussion with the U.S. side on the flight altitude.

Question:
So, the traffic pattern will not be changed, but the altitude may be set higher?

Minister:
If the altitude is different, then this may correlate with the traffic pattern, so it may not be limited to changes in the altitude. I would like to repeat that both Japan and the U.S. are currently discussing on how flight safety can be confirmed and ensured in a total package.

Question:
Regarding the pamphlet regarding the Osprey that the Ministry of Defense (MOD) had issued in June, in which you mentioned just now that the altitude and the flight pattern may be revised. However, the June pamphlet says that “it will fly in the same flight path as before.” I think the information such as the autorotation chart for the Osprey had not been obtained at this point, but can you explain what prompted the thinking to say at this point that it was going to fly in the same flight path as before?

Minister:
I’m not too sure about the part “the same as before” since the Osprey has never flown in Japan up to now.

Question:
It says “the same traffic path”

Minister:
Doesn’t this mean that other aircraft are going to fly the same path?

Question:
It mentioned that the Osprey is going to fly in the same flight path. This was in the pamphlet that the MOD had issued in June.

Minister:
There have been various negotiations conducted between Japan and the U.S. after said pamphlet had been published, so it would be safe to assume that the situation had developed further since then.

Question:
Does this mean that the MOD had lacked information on this?

Minister:
In view of the results of the two accidents, both Japan and the U.S. have been conducting discussions on what kind of agreement can be reached in order to confirm and ensure the safety (of the Osprey). I’m not too sure which month the materials for the pamphlet were compiled, but I think it was before my assumption of office as Minister. After that, the bilateral security committee was formed and we gained more understanding on the details of the accident, as well as conducting discussions at length on what altitude is going to be best to confirm flight safety. It’s not that there were insufficient information at the time the pamphlet was made, but rather we are making progress on what we need to do in order to confirm flight safety as we became more aware of the details of the accident and its cause.

(End)

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