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Video shot from 2 locations in Tokyo exposes low altitude flight of US military helicopter

A U.S. Army Black Hawk passes in front of the approximately 270-meter-tall NTT Docomo Yoyogi Building in Shibuya Ward, Tokyo, as seen from a point about 200 meters high in a building on the south side of the helicopter, at about 11:05 a.m. on Oct. 22, 2020. (Mainichi/Hiroyuki Oba)

TOKYO -- In response to the issue of U.S. military helicopters repeatedly flying in central Tokyo at low altitudes that would be illegal for Japanese aircraft, the Mainichi Shimbun released a new video on June 16 providing evidence of such flights.

    The video captured by the Mainichi Shimbun shows the U.S. Army Black Hawk helicopter flying at a low altitude between two skyscrapers over a densely populated area near Shinjuku Station on Oct. 22, 2020.

    Japan's Civil Aeronautics Act stipulates that in densely populated areas, the minimum safe altitude for flying is 300 meters above the top of the tallest building within a 600-meter radius of the aircraft.

    A U.S. Army Black Hawk passes behind the approximately 270-meter-tall NTT Docomo Yoyogi Building in Shibuya Ward, Tokyo, as seen from an altitude of about 202 meters in the south observatory of the metropolitan government building in Shinjuku Ward, northwest of the helicopter, at about 11:05 a.m. on Oct. 22, 2020. (Mainichi/Toshiaki Uchihashi)

    The Black Hawk flew from the Kanagawa Prefecture direction sometime between 11 a.m. and 12 p.m. on Oct. 22 last year, and passed by the 234-meter-tall Tokyo Opera City Tower and the 243-meter-tall Tokyo Metropolitan Government Main Building No. 1 in Shinjuku at an altitude lower than the buildings. It flew at about the same altitude over Yoyogi Park and Meiji Jingu shrine, then entered the airspace within the JR Yamanote Line loop and headed toward Ueno.

    A Mainichi Shimbun reporter captured the flight from an altitude of about 200 meters from a tower south of the Black Hawk's flight path. Another reporter took video of the same helicopter from a height of 202 meters in the south observatory of the metropolitan government building to the northwest of the chopper.

    The two videos taken from different angles show that the altitude of the Black Hawk was in the 200-meter range as it passed by the NTT Docomo Yoyogi Building, the tallest building in the Shinjuku area, which is about 270 meters high.

    The Mainichi Shimbun has reported on the issue of U.S. military helicopters repeatedly flying at low altitudes over the city center with video footage since Feb. 24. The Japanese government has been asking the U.S. side to confirm the facts since the end of February, but the they have yet to provide a final response.

    A U.S. Army Black Hawk passes in front of the 234-meter-tall Tokyo Opera City Tower in Shinjuku Ward, Tokyo, as seen from an altitude of about 200 meters, at around 11:05 a.m. on Oct. 22, 2020. (Mainichi/Hiroyuki Oba)

    According to the Japanese government, the U.S. side said that it has not been confirmed that there was any flight that violated International Civil Aviation Organization rules or U.S. military regulations consistent with Japan's civil aviation law, but explained that it is not easy to confirm the detailed facts, partly because a long time has passed since the reported flights.

    In light of the fact that the U.S. side has not provided a final answer, the Mainichi Shimbun is publishing previously unreleased video evidence in sequence.

    (Japanese original by Hiroyuki Oba and Toshiaki Uchihashi, Tokyo City News Department and Takahiro Kato, Video Group)

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