TOKYO, Jan. 10, Kyodo — Japan has received approval from the United States to set new commercial flight routes in U.S.-controlled airspace over Tokyo’s Haneda airport in order to increase services ahead of the 2020 Olympics and Paralympics, government sources said Tuesday.
The United States has controlled huge areas of airspace over the Japanese capital and vicinity since World War II. Tokyo will explore whether the latest move could eventually lead to Washington formally returning more of the airspace, the sources said.
The so-called Yokota Rapcon airspace is set in six different levels like stairs at altitudes between 2,450 and 7,000 meters and stretching over Tokyo and eight other prefectures. Yokota is the name of the air base in western Tokyo where the U.S. military in Japan has its headquarters.
The restrictions of use of airspace have forced many commercial flights using Haneda airport to detour or fly higher, causing air traffic congestion.
The Japanese government plans to expand the annual arrival and departure slots at Haneda by up to 39,000 in time for the 2020 Tokyo Games from the current 447,000 and drew four new routes, three of which can go through the U.S.-controlled airspace.
The planned new routes will boost the airport’s landing and departing capacity as they would allow two airplanes to land simultaneously on two airstrips at Haneda, the sources said.
The United States has already approved the use of the three routes to be set in its airspace at working-level negotiations, according to the sources.
The United States returned parts of the airspace in 1992 and 2008.
The airspace has been under U.S. military control through the Allied occupation of Japan in August 1945 during which U.S.-led military forces took over the country’s flight control operations.
The Yokota radar approach control covers airspace above Tokyo, Tochigi, Gunma, Saitama, Kanagawa, Yamanashi, Niigata, Nagano and Shizuoka prefectures.