Major James Morimoto, Airfield Operations Flight Commander at Yokota Air Base

 Greetings! I am Major J a m e s M o r i m o t o , Airfield Operations Flight Commander at Yokota Air Base. I have been given the pleasure of writing an article about the Kanto Plain Mid-Air Collision Avoidance Conferences held at Yokota Air Base on January 10 and March 20, 2010.

My primary focus is the eff ective management of three sections at Yokota that are integral to air operations. My staff oversees the management of the airfield, the control tower and the approach control. We have nearly 70 great mericans from all over the United States, ranging in age from 19 to 50, serving in the military and believing in something more than themselves. We have the distinct pleasure to work with 6 members of the Japanese Air Self Defense Force in the approach control under the auspices of a United States- Japan air traffic controller training study. Our operation is unique in the United States Air Force.

When I arrived here a little over 18 months ago to lead this unit, they had just returned 40% of the Yokota airspace to Japanese responsibility to enable expansion of services at Tokyo International Airport through efficient air routes.
This was a commendable effort at easing the burden of defense on Japan but as always, there are ways to make things better. As I gained more knowledge of how my staff was supporting Yokota’ s military mission and the needs of the users of Yokota airspace, I began to notice that there were areas where we could improve the effectiveness of how we managed the airspace and that current procedures required a modern revision to maintain a safe flying environment.

As FAA-trained controllers, we are taught from the beginning that our first priority is separating aircraft and issuing safety alerts. We are also taught that our duty priority is on a first come, first served basis except as specified by certain priorities that take precedence such as emergencies. Air traffi c control is predicated from these basic principles and guides controllers when using their “best judgment” in the absence of regulatory guidance. We are required to follow the principles of safety and efficiency above all else.

However, Yokota is diff erent because we are using FAA procedures within a country using ICAOcompliant procedures. Processes that we are trained to use don’t exist here. Basic things like coordination for air shows are not quite effi cient which presents challenges to provide proper notifications in a timely manner to be useful to those who need to know. This has serious safety implications. I noticed and became extremely concerned that we were not operating safely. I became concerned that we appeared to be operating this way for more than a few years. For all the advances the United States has made in aviation safety procedures and processes, we seemed to do very little to make this operation safe and efficient.

During candid discussions with my staff about a problem that we’ve had for years with “1200” code aircraft operating in the airspace, I suggested that we do something about it. I suggested that the best way for “ VFR ” pilots to avoid midair collisions is to bring them together and talk about all aspects of operations in the airspace. Something similar to a“ hangar” talk among pilots in the United States. Our vision for this hangar talk would be a conference that included all of the United States military fl ying units based in Yokota airspace and the air traffic control units that provide the services supporting operations.

We considered this proposal for a few months and I began to develop it further. I thought about how to make this realistically possible. I thought about who we would invite, what we would talk about, and how it would be supportable. I began to write down notes and the overall concept. Then, life provided an opportunity. Yokota approach control was invited to AOPA JAPAN safety conference to provide a briefing on Yokota airspace. Two of our controllers provided a thorough briefing which was warmly welcomed. There were many questions from the pilots and it appeared that there was a great interest in operations. My controllers brought back this feedback and made some new friends there. Among them was our future partners in the conference, Aircraft Owner’s and Pilot’s Association Japan.

I asked my controllers for a little help in introductions to the friends we made and I e-mailed them to ask for a meeting to discuss our proposal. While I waited for their reply, I took my notes and produced an 80% concept proposal for approval from my commander. I pitched my proposal and answered all the unknown questions. Key to the effort would be a partnership with the Yokota flight safety office and Yokota Flight Training Center. I brought them in and we all agreed to work as a team to make this happen.

We met with our partners from AOPA Japan, the Japan Flying Association and Japan Aircraft and Pilots Association several times to further develop plans for this conference. At first, I think they didn’t believe us and that we were serious about flight safety enough to do something completely different. But they saw the vision of collaboration on safety as an important part of development of aviation in Japan. Aviation cannot grow safely without the support of everyone and we do not want to impede progress in the course of what we do every day to defend Japan.

After further refinement, we brought the proposal to the 374th Airlift Wing Commander for approval. He liked the idea but instead of conducting the conference as outlined, he wanted us to do two conferences. The first would be to ensure sufficient interest existed and the second would be as envisioned in our original concepts. At this point, we were extremely behind in making the conference a reality for Fall and almost too difficult to do it next Spring. When I proposed the conference, the ideal times to conduct the conference fly-in is either Fall or Spring because these are the best times of year for light aircraft to fly in Japan.

Doing a conference only, complicated things a little because we needed to do it prior to the flyin conference. This meant that it had to be at least two months prior to the fly-in. So, if the best time to fly is Spring, March would be ideal but we would need to do the first conference in January. We had less than two months to prepare and get word out to pilots and fficials. Also, coordination was required to ensure that we had the support of everyone on Yokota to make this happen. We had to ensure that we had the right people available to brief aircraft operations. Many good people volunteered their time to make Yokota airspace safe.

We planned the first conference for January 10, 2010 and sent invitations out. The response was tremendous from everyone. We planned a day of discussions about Yokota air traffic control, 36th Airlift Squadron flight operations, 459 th Airlift Squadron flight operations, and Yokota Flight Training Center flight operations. We asked that displays of our C-130, C-12 and UH-1 aircraft were made available along with pilots and crew to answer questions. We opened up our new air traffic control tower and approach control for tours. This was never done before at Yokota. It was not Yokota’s Friendship Festival because it had specific purpose towards flight safety.

Over 130 pilots, crew and aviation professionals attended. I thank you for your interest in flight safety because your presence means progress in mutual understanding. It was an undeniable success for everyone.

Once the first conference was completed, we immediately began work on the envisioned fly-in conference. This was to be the fi rst and largest gathering of its kind in Japan. It had never been done before at a United States military airfi eld in Japan. We developed plans to minimize risk and to guard against accidents and injuries. Risk is always present in all we do in aviation. Identifying the risks, weighing the importance, and developing countermeasures to mitigate risk are essential to maintain safety.

The fly-in was much more diffi cult to plan. Many questions existed. How would pilots get to Yokota? Were existing procedures adequate towards safety and efficiency? What was the experience level of the pilots attending? What was the pilot’s training background? Where would we park aircraft and how much time would we need to receive all aircraft? This all needed to be taken into account in development in the fly-in conference procedures and an overall schedule.

We met regularly with the planning team to discuss procedures but it was left up to us to do much of the procedures since we are the hosts and it is a United States military airfi eld. We thought about the basic rectangular pattern and how it would support the volume of traffic anticipated. After much consideration, we determined that it would be unsafe to use this pattern because of our proximity to the mountains, unpredictable arrival directions, difficulty in re-sequencing aircraft, diffi culty with pattern entry, and ineffi ciencies with the pattern overall. These reasons combined with language challenges, training variances and experience variances would be problematic.

We settled on a modifi ed overhead pattern for the arrivals and basic rectangular departure pattern. This allowed fl exibility for arriving aircraft to first see the runway prior to landing on it and ease of entry into the pattern while maintaining flexibility in variances in airspeed and timing. We were pretty sure most of the pilots attending have never landed at RJTY.

Once the procedures were finalized, concurrent work on invitations and scheduling continued. We were happy with the response from everyone. We were going to limit the number of aircraft to 30 but the interest was so great that we allowed more aircraft to participate.

Finally, March 20 , 2010 came and we were rewarded with good flying weather for the conference. Aircraft began arriving on schedule until we had 42 aircraft on the ground. The sight of so many non-military aircraft was amazing!
Everything went as planned with a few variances in pilots following procedures. I’m not going to identify who they are but my controllers did find it amusing to see how many ways the published procedures could be followed.

Once everyone arrived, we went to the conference site to begin briefings on United States Navy Carrier Air Wing Five flight operations, United States Army 78 th Aviation Battalion flight operations, United States Air Force 374th Airlift Wing flight operations and Yokota air traffic control. Weather began to deteriorate as time progressed. Winds were expected to become worse for operating light aircraft. We were ahead of schedule so we decided that is was safer for everyone to depart as soon as possible. Our meteorologists provided a pre-flight weather briefi ng and airfi eld management fl ied fl ight plans and provided NOTAMs for specifi c airfi elds. We finished the conference and everyone went straight to their aircraft for departure.

Departure was not as ideal as planned. We deviated from the plan and allowed everyone to leave when they were ready to taxi. This was a problem since we spent many hours developing the departure plan to ensure pilots could make it home safely before their airfields closed. All aircraft were to be in a specific order to ensure proper sequencing. This resulted in a long wait for departure, wasted fuel, inefficiency and ompromised safety. Unanticipated events complicated things further and added time to the wait for departure. Creative re-sequencing from our controllers kept things safe and restored some order. Everyone made it out safely and to their home airfields.

We are thankful that you are interested in flight safety and towards making aviation better in Japan. We were able to obtain great feedback, make new friends, and enjoy what aviation has to offer. We could not be safe unless everyone participates, communicates and discusses problems and potential solutions candidly without fear. We were happy to see this conference happen. It was like a dream come true to see an idea become reality in less than a year. We hope that the United States military and Japan can work together in the future towards a safer flying environment that supports everyone’s needs.

Morimoto 少佐の記事 翻訳
広報委員 細谷泰正


私の主な任務は次にご説明する三つの組織の管理です。それらは航空作戦の遂行のために互いに深く関与しています。私の部下たちは飛行場の管理、管制塔およびアプローチコントロールの運用を担当しています。隊員数はおよそ70人。米国各地からやってき たアメリカ人で年齢層は19歳から50歳におよび、みな士気の高い軍人たちです。また、日米航空管制官訓練制度の一環として航空自衛隊から6人の隊員がアプローチコントロールに派遣されています。彼らと一緒に仕事ができることも喜びです。私たちの業務形態は米空軍のなかでも特殊です。




部下たちとの会議で「1200」コードで飛行する航空機に関する問題が以前から存在すると取り上げられました。この件に関しては対策を講じる必要性を提起しました。私の提案は、VFRパイロットの空中衝突を防止する最も有効な方法はみんなを集めて空域内 を飛行するあらゆる場合に関して話し合いの場を設けることでした。これは米国でよく行われる、「ハンガートーク」と呼ばれるパイロット同士の話し合いのようなものです。私たちが考えたことは、ハンガートークの中に横田基地に所属するすべての飛行隊と 管制業務を行うすべての組織を参加させた会議を行うことでした。

横田の管制官がAOPA-Japanの安全講習会に招待され横田空域に関して話をする機会を得たのです。横田の管制官2名が詳しい説明を行い、これが温かく迎えられたのです。パイロットから多くの質問が出され、私たちの業務に関して高い関心があることを実感したのです。私の管制官たちこうした報告をもたらすと同時に友人も作ることができました。こうして 後に会議開催のパートナーとなるAOPA-ジャパンに出会ったのです。

そしてメールを送り提案に関しての話し合いを求めたのです。メールの回答を待つ間、私は会議の構想に関して80%くらいまで纏め上げました。そして上司の承認をとるべく残りの部分を急ぎました。ここからの作業を進めるにあたり重要だったのは横田飛行安全事務所(Yokota Flight Safety Office)横田飛行訓練センター(Yokota Flight Training Center)の協力でした。彼らと話をして会議の実現に向け共同で作業に当たることが合意されました。


計画をさらに洗練させ、私たちは第374航空団司令官の承認を得るために提案書を提出しました。彼から理解を得ることができましたが、提案どおりに会議を行う代わりに二回に分けて開催するよう頼まれました。最初の会議で十分な参加希望者があることを 確認した上で第二回目を計画書どおりに開催するという形です。この時点において私たちは計画がかなり遅れていました。というのは、軽飛行機の飛行に適した季節は秋か春のため、その時期に会議を行いたいと考えていました。秋に行うのは間に合わなくなっていたのです。


第一回の会議は2010年1月10日と定め招待状を配布しました。ものすごい反応が各方面から寄せられました。議題として横田航空管制、第36空輸飛行隊の運航、第459空輸飛行隊の運航、横田航空安全センターの運航を盛り込んだ一日の会議内容が組まれま した。基地に配備されているC-130、C-12、UH-1を展示して質問に備えるために乗員の配置も依頼しました。新しい管制塔とレーダー管制室も公開しました。これは過去に行われたことはありません。これは通常の基地祭ではありません。航空安全という確固たる目的を持っていたからです。


第一回目の終了とともにフライイン形式の第二回目の準備にかかりました。この種の集まりでは日本でかつて行われたことのない規模になります。そして日本の米軍基地でも過去に前例はありませんでした。 私たちは危険を最小限にとどめるための計画を行い事故や怪我人に対する対策も講じました。飛行には危険がつき物です。危険要因をあぶり出し優先順位をつけながら対策を講じることは安全のために避けられないことです。

フライインの計画はさらに困難を極めました。疑問点が多く出てきました。パイロットたちはどのように横田へ到着するのか?既存の手順は十分に安全で効率的だろうか?参加するパイロットたちの経験度はどうか?どのような訓練を受けてきたのか?どこに駐機 させ到着に要する時間帯は?これらすべてを考慮してはじめてフライイン会議のスケジュールや手順を決めることができます。

計画チームとは定期的に打ち合わせを重ねてきましたが、米軍の飛行場で行うため私たちが主催者となります。飛行手順の策定など当然多くのことは私たちが準備する必要がありました。当初は通常の長方形の飛行経路の使用が検討されました。これで計画さ れた機数のすべてが処理できるかが焦点でした。検討を進めると、到着順の変更、予期しない方向からのアプローチ、横田周辺の地形など安全性に問題があることがわかってきました。さらに言語の問題、訓練習熟度や飛行経験のばらつきが問題点として加わります。



そしてついに2010 年3 月20 日がやってきました。当日は好天に恵まれました。一番機から最後の飛行機まで予定どうり到着しました。横田でこんなに多くの民間機を目にすることに感銘を受けました。少数のパイロットが手順以外の方法を取ったようですがおおむね計画どうりでした。誰とは特定したくありませんが、私の管制官は、配布した手順書もいろいろな解釈があるものだと感心していました。

参加者全員が着陸した後、会議の会場へ向かいました。米海軍第五空母航空団、米陸軍第78飛行大隊、米空軍第374 空輸航空団、横田管制が説明を行いました。時間が進むにつれて天候も悪化しはじめました。 風が強くなり軽飛行機の飛行には適さなくなる恐れがありました。会議は予定より早く進行していたので出発時間も早めることにしました。気象担当者は出発前の気象状況を伝え、飛行場管理担当者がNOTAMの伝達と飛行計画の提出を行いました。そして会議の終了とともに全員が帰路にきました。

帰路は計画したほど順調ではありませんでした。当初の計画を変更してタキシー準備ができた機体から出発させることにしたのです。これは問題を生じてしまいました。中には運用時間が早く終了してしまう飛行場があります。そうした飛行場に帰る機体が早く離陸できるように順番があらかじめ決まっていからです。結果として離陸の待ち時間が長くなってしまったのです。それ以外にも燃料が無駄になり安全面での問題もありました。予期しなかったことなども加わり待ち時間はさらに延びてしまいました。 管制官たちは独創的な方法で順番をやりくりし全機が安全に出発することができました。