Yokota Air Base, Japan --
Traveling from various places around the Kanto Plains, 14 aircraft landed at Yokota Air Base, Japan, to attend the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association-Japan’s Mid-Air Collision and Avoidance conference hosted by the 374th Operations Group, July 20, 2019.
The conference provided 64 Japanese pilots with the unique opportunity to hear briefings from military personnel, discussing airspace boundaries, flight routes and daily operations with a singular goal in mind, to increase awareness and promote safety in the skies over Yokota and the surrounding communities.
“Over the years this has become a seminar and fly-in,” said Maj. Scott Carlan, 36th Airlift Squadron chief of flight safety and MACA event coordinator. “The main focus of the event is the briefings we use to get our message out -- how we use the air space and how we control the air space with our neighbors to ensure everyone is on the same page.”
In Yokota’s seventh year hosting the event, the event doesn’t only provide a safety briefing, but also allows local pilots the rare chance to commute to the event via their own aircraft.
“The rare opportunity to fly into the conference has become very much our way of working more closely with our neighbors,” said Carlan. “It provides the Japanese pilots a personalized experience and makes the event more exciting for them. More importantly, it gives them a better understanding of the routes we use and makes it easier to brief them on our practices.”
With local military and civilian operators safely on the ground at Yokota, the conference allowed both U.S. forces and Japanese parties to discuss air safety over the Kanto Plains region.
“We want anyone we share the skies with to come out and be involved in this event,” said Carlan. “Our target audience was the general aviation populace, the people who are unaware of what our rules are and how we fly. Through communicating that information with our local aviators, we can not only prevent accidents, but eliminate the possibility of them ever occurring.”
The three-hour conference included briefings provided by operators from Yokota AB, Naval Air Station Atsugi, Japan, and Camp Zama, Japan. Allowing attendees the ability to not only share the space with Yokota’s crews, but also crews from other nearby military installations.
“Within the general aviation community there is not a lot of dialogue,” said Carlan. “Outside of the commercial or military worlds, air traffic is not as scheduled. If a pilot wants to fly, he does just that. Since we share this air space, it’s vital that we come together with these local aircraft operators and communicate. This conference gives us a medium to facilitate that conversation, to give them the message of how we use the air space and what the rules are for this air space so we can all use it safely.”
Carlan explained that the event has become more than just a conference.
“Over the years it’s blossomed into more of a community event, a coming together between us, as military guests, and our host nation,” said Carlan. “In hosting this event, it’s much bigger than just wing safety and mid-air collision, it’s about building a sense of community with our neighboring aviators. For myself and everyone that attended, I know the community will be a safer one moving forward and the best outcome we can hope for.”