All national papers reported that Deputy Commander Murphy of the 35th Fighter Wing at Misawa AB met separately with Governor Mimura and other local officials on Wednesday and apologized for the emergency landing by an F-16 at Aomori Airport on Tuesday by saying: “We regret causing anxiety and concern.” The base authorities reportedly said the pilot, after being warned of engine trouble, jettisoned the plane’s two fuel tanks to make the plane lighter and extend the flight distance. Although the U.S. military initially explained that the tanks were jettisoned in an unpopulated area near a mountain, one of them landed near a major road close to the Fukaura town hall. The other one has yet to be found. The governor reportedly stressed to Col. Murphy that “one wrong step could have turned the incident into a major disaster,” pressing the U.S. military to identify the cause and take measures to prevent a recurrence. Senior Vice Defense Minister Oniki, who inspected the scene of the mishap, underscored that the ministry has asked the U.S. military to ground its F-16s until their safety is confirmed.
According to Asahi, the U.S. military notified the Defense Ministry of the incident 3.5 hours after it occurred. The Fukaura municipal and prefectural governments learned from the Tohoku Defense Bureau of the jettisoning of the fuel tanks almost four hours after they were dropped. The paper emphasized that since certain parts of the Aviation Law are not applicable to the U.S. military under the SOFA, the U.S. military is not required to report to the Japanese side the details of incidents and accidents, projecting that the Aomori police will run into difficulties investigating the mishap since it will not have direct access to the aircraft or the fuel tanks.