Japan’s Aviation Director Address Impact Tsunami Has Had On Aviation Industry


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Japan’s Aviation Director Address Impact Tsunami Has Had On Aviation Industry

By Mike Mitchell

June 13, 2011 - On Friday more than 180 delegates attending CANSO’s Asia-Pacific Conference in Bangkok listened firsthand to Mr. Takeshi Imagome, Director Air Traffic Affairs Office, Japan Civil Aviation Bureau (JCAB) who described the impact of the earthquake and tsunami on the country’s aviation industry. 

The Civil Air Navigation Services Organization (CANSO) is the global voice of the companies that provide air traffic control, and represents the interests of Air Navigation Services Providers worldwide.  

Mr. Imagome, Director Air Traffic International Affairs Office, Japan Civil Aviation Bureau joined the conference to share his views and experiences on what he described as one the worst natural disasters in recent history resulting in more than 15,000 fatalities with a further 8,000 people still unaccounted for. 

Mr. Imagome outlined the actions taken by JCAB, other aviation stakeholders and the international community in the weeks following the disaster to restore of normal air traffic operations.

These included the transfer of traffic advisory services and weather information to JCAB’s administrative offices from the control tower that had suffered significant damage; the implementation of flight restriction zones to minimize the potential risk of radiation exposure following a hydrogen explosion at Fukushima nuclear power plant; and the introduction of short-haul flights for certain routes to replace high-speed bullet trains unable to operate due to the damage caused to the network infrastructure.

Mr. Imagome referred to the close collaboration with the US Air Force on the deployment of Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS), which proved vital in facilitating disaster zone surveillance. He went on to explain that because UAS are not legally classed as aircraft under Japanese law, JCAB needed to issue a notice to controllers to treat UAS as normal IFR flights. 

In his concluding remarks, Mr. Imagome paid tribute to the Japanese air traffic controllers who retained the highest levels of professionalism throughout the disaster despite many of them suffering distressing personal losses. He also thanked the international community for supporting the Japanese people through a difficult time. CANSO Director General Graham Lake led a standing ovation, thanking Mr Imagome for taking the time to attend the CANSO conference and sharing his experiences with the delegates. 

CANSO members are responsible for supporting over 85% of world air traffic, and through our Workgroups, members share information and develop new policies, with the ultimate aim of improving air navigation services on the ground and in the air. CANSO also represents its members’ views in major regulatory and industry forums, including at ICAO, where they have official Observer status.


The 2011 Tōhoku earthquake, also known as the Great East Japan Earthquake, was a magnitude 9.0 (Mw) undersea mega thrust earthquake off the coast of Japan that occurred at 05:46 UTC on Friday, 11 March 2011, with the epicenter approximately 70 kilometers (43 mi) east of the Oshika Peninsula of Tōhoku and the hypocenter at an underwater depth of approximately 32 km (20 mi). 

It was the most powerful known earthquake to have hit Japan, and one of the five most powerful earthquakes in the world overall since modern record-keeping began in 1900. The earthquake triggered extremely destructive tsunami waves of up to 38.9 meters (128 ft) that struck Japan, in some cases traveling up to 10 km (6 mi) inland.

In addition to loss of life and destruction of infrastructure, the tsunami caused a number of nuclear accidents, primarily the ongoing level 7 meltdowns at three reactors in the Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant complex, and the associated evacuation zones affecting hundreds of thousands of residents. The overall cost could exceed US$300 billion, making it the most expensive natural disaster on record.

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