Iwakuni Kintaikyo Airport Open as New "Joint Military-Civilian Airport"
Iwatani Kintaikyo Airport in Iwakuni, Yamaguchi Prefecture opened as a civilian airport on December 13.
Iwakuni Air Station, also known unofficially as Iwakuni Base by localsA, is home to members of the United States Marine Corps and other American military personnel, but it now operates as a "joint military-civilian airport." The base was a civilian airport until the mid-1960s. Now it is "reopening" to its first regular commercial flights in around 50 years.
Local governments and residents have been pleading to Japan's national government to allow the joint use of the facility due to the lack of any other airports within a 100-kilometer radius. The Japanese and U.S. governments agreed in 2005 to allow four daily roundtrip civilian flights at the base. Since then further progress has been made on transforming it into a dual-use facility as decisions were finalized for matters such as the construction of a new passenger terminal and plans for regular commercial flights operated by All Nippon Airways Co., Ltd. (ANA). Since the civilian airport's opening, ANA has been flying four daily roundtrip flights to Haneda Airport in Tokyo.
A ceremony to commemorate the occasion was held at the terminal on December 9, prior to its opening. There was a ribbon cutting ceremony on the tarmac in which 1,000 people participated. Officials and local residents were pleased to see their long-held desire for a joint military-civilian airport fulfilled. Governor of Yamaguchi Prefecture Shigetaro Yamamoto expressed his hopes for the airport: "Opening the airport will be an explosive shot in the arm for the prefecture's economy and I hope it will help to revitalize it."