The Yomiuri ShimbunTo expand the entry of foreign visitors, it is indispensable to reinforce the functions of airports in the Tokyo metropolitan area. The government must continue striving to gain the understanding of local residents who will be affected.
To increase international flights to and from Haneda Airport, the Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism Ministry is set to operate a new flight route that passes over central Tokyo, starting on March 29 next year.
The new route will be utilized for landing operations between 3 p.m. and 7 p.m. on days when the wind blows from the south. Within Tokyo, planes will descend from Shinjuku, flying in the direction of the Ebisu and Oimachi areas.
This will make it possible, it is said, to increase the annual number of daytime arrivals and departures for international flights at Haneda Airport from the current about 60,000 to about 99,000.
The government has regarded efforts to attract more foreign visitors as a main pillar of its growth strategy. It aims to increase the number of such visitors to 40 million in 2020, when the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics will be held. It was therefore necessary to shore up the airport capacity of the Tokyo metropolitan area through the joint functions of Haneda and Narita.
According to the ministry, international routes to and from the two airports cover about 100 cities, fewer than those for such cities as Seoul and Singapore. From the standpoint of intercity competition, efforts should be made to increase the number of arrivals and departures to and from Haneda and Narita.
Ensure pilots’ training
It is important to dispel the anxiety felt by people who live in the vicinity of the new route. Up to about 130 planes a day will fly over central Tokyo at an altitude of 1,000 meters or lower, although the flights will be limited to a certain time of day.
The ministry has already obtained the consent of relevant local governments. However, anxiety persists among residents in the vicinity of the new route about noise pollution and falling objects.
Osaka Airport, also known as Itami Airport, and Fukuoka Airport lie adjacent to urban areas. It is necessary to continue listening to the voices of local residents and take all possible measures regarding these problems, while studying cases involving other airports.
The ministry expects that noise pollution up to about 60 to 80 decibels will be caused in areas where planes fly at an altitude of 1,000 meters or lower. Noise of 80 decibels is said to be equivalent to that inside a subway train.
Measures against noise pollution include raising the angle at which a plane descends as it is about to land, from an initially planned 3 degrees to 3.5 degrees, with a view to securing a reduction in flights at an altitude close to the ground. In and around the Oimachi area, the flight altitude will be raised from about 300 meters to about 340 meters, and from about 910 meters to about 1,040 meters in the Shinjuku area.
The ministry has said that there will be no problem with the safety of planes trying to land at such angles. However, even more advanced skills will be required of pilots. The government and airlines should make all-out efforts in this respect, including the full training of pilots.
Another matter for consideration is to clarify how the roles of Haneda and Narita airports should be divided. Haneda will likely be used to upgrade routes mainly for passengers going to North America on business, while Narita is expected to meet the demand of transit passengers and low-cost carriers. It is important to heighten their international competitiveness through efficient operations.