Okinawa Airport Near-Misses Almost Resulted in ‘Major Disaster’

Two Aircraft Near-Misses as Military Chopper Gets in the Way 0:45

TOKYO — A military helicopter and two commercial planes were involved in pair of near-misses at a Japanese airport on Wednesday.

The incidents occurred at Naha Airport in Okinawa when the CH-47 helicopter flew over the runway as an All Nippon Airways Boeing 737 carrying 83 was preparing to take off. The jet's pilot was forced to slam on the brakes to abort the maneuver, which resulted in another inbound commercial aircraft landing dangerously close behind it.

The second plane operated by Japan Transocean Air, also a Boeing 737, was carrying 44 passengers and crew.

"It appears that the Self-Defense Force pilot misunderstood the instructions from the air traffic control and this is something we need to thoroughly investigate," according to Adm. Katsutoshi Kawano, chief of Japan's Self-Defense Forces' Joint Staff. "This is very regrettable. One misstep could have led to a major disaster."

A helicopter flies over the runway at Naha Airport in Okinawa. NBC News

The Japan Transport Safety Board also dispatched investigators to probe the “serious incident.”

Naha Airport serves as the main gateway for tourists to Okinawa island but its single runway is also shared by the Japan's military.