Tireless Efforts Reopened Sendai Airport to Civilian Aircraft

Tireless Efforts Reopened Sendai Airport to Civilian Aircraft

USAF cleared Sendai Airport of debris. Photo: U.S. Forces Japan

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Sendai Airport in Natori, Miyagi Prefecture, which was closed due to the Tohoku Pacific Earthquake and ensuing tsunami, reopened on April 13.

Although flight volume, airport facilities and traveler services are limited, the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism (MLIT) has made the prompt reopening of the airport as an air transport hub connecting the stricken area with the rest of Japan a top priority.

The airport was submerged and catastrophically damaged by the giant tsunami on March 11. However, U.S. Marines have led a cleanup team that began work right away. On the 16th, half of the 3,000-meter runway that was covered in dirt and rubble was brought back to limited functionality, allowing over 200 landings and takeoffs by U.S. military and Japanese Self-Defense Force (SDF) rescue aircraft. As of the time this article was written, the entire runway and some facilities have been restored to operational status. The U.S. military was tasked with temporarily operating the control tower, which was handed back over at the end of March with the goal of reopening the airport to civilian aircraft.

"It looked like if you had left an airport alone for 1,000 years," said Captain Robert Gerbract, who was in charge of the U.S. cleanup effort upon arrival. The astounding speed of Sendai Airport's reopening this month is a result of his team's relentless efforts. U.S. military officials have also praised the team's achievements in using the skills they have developed to repair and cleanup the airport's facilities in this time of emergency.

The restoration of Sendai Airport will mean that all airports in the Tohoku region will be operational for the first time since the Tohoku Pacific Earthquake struck.