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Test flights on Haneda Airport's new routes above central Tokyo raise noise concerns

An airplane flies above the heart of Tokyo as part of test flights along new routes, in this photo taken from a Mainichi Shimbun helicopter in the capital's Shibuya Ward, on Feb. 2, 2020. The National Stadium is seen at the top. (Mainichi)

TOKYO -- Japan's transport ministry began test flights of large passenger aircraft on new routes above the heart of Tokyo on Feb. 2, to measure noise levels and check air traffic control services.

Those new routes are scheduled to open on March 29 for commercial flights to and from Haneda Airport in the capital's Ota Ward. Currently, flights arriving at the airport are only allowed to approach from above Tokyo Bay.

Under the new scheme, planes will touch down at Haneda Airport after traversing central Tokyo from northwest to southeast if southerly winds are observed near the airport. The aircraft will be flying at an altitude of some 1,000 meters near Shinjuku, about 700 meters near Shibuya, and roughly 300 meters near Oimachi.

Although use of the new routes will be limited to between 3 p.m. and 7 p.m., there are fears the low-altitude flights could cause noise damage to areas below. Though part of the new flight courses includes an eastern portion of the airspace controlled by the U.S. military's Yokota Air Base, commercial air traffic in that area will be controlled by Japanese authorities.

The test flights on Feb. 2 began at around 4:20 p.m. and continued until about 6 p.m. In the Tennozu waterfront district of Shinagawa Ward, huge passenger planes thundered over every several minutes, flying so low they almost appeared to be grazing the tops of high-rise buildings.

A local resident in her 30s told the Mainichi Shimbun, "I was surprised because the planes were bigger and noise they made was louder than I had imagined. I have a small child, so I'm also worried about falling objects."

(Japanese original by Atsushi Matsumoto and Shohei Kawamura, City News Department)

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