13 July 2012

Fukuoka Airport

Fukuoka Airport (福岡空港 Fukuoka Kūkō?) (IATA: FUKICAO: RJFF), formerly known as Itazuke Air Base, is an international and domestic airport located 1.6 NM (3.0 km; 1.8 mi) east of Hakata Station[1] in Fukuoka, Japan. It is officially designated a second class airport. It is operating at full capacity, and cannot be further expanded. Flights stop at 10 p.m. at the request of local residents and resume operation at 7 a.m.
The airport is located in Hakata-ku, south-east of the city centre. It is connected to the rest of the city by Fukuoka City Subway and road, and a subway from the airport to the business district takes less than ten minutes.
Fukuoka Airport is the fourth busiest passenger airport in Japan. In 2006, it was used by 18.1 million people and there were 137,000 takeoffs and landings.[2]
There is only one runway of 2800 metres, and the airport is surrounded by residential areas and the approach is reminiscent of the old Hong Kong airport, Kai Tak International.
In the mid-1990s, Delta Air Lines operated a non-stop flight between Fukuoka and Portland, Oregon, where the airline once operated its trans-pacific hub. When the route was dropped due to financial pressure, Fukuoka lost its first and only non-stop service to the mainland U.S. Fukuoka once again regained its first and only nonstop service to the United States when both Delta and Hawaiian Airlines launched service to Honolulu.
First established in 1943 as an Imperial Japanese Army Air Force Airfield, after the war Fukuoka Airport was the site the United States Air Force Itazuke Air Base until 1972.[3]

Fukuoka Airport
Fukuoka Kūkō
Itazuke Air Base
Fukuoka Airport international terminal.jpg
Airport type Military/Public
Operator Civil Aviation Bureau
Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism
Location Fukuoka, Fukuoka
Elevation AMSL 30 ft / 9 m
Coordinates 33°35′04″N 130°27′06″E / 33.58444°N 130.45167°E / 33.58444; 130.45167Coordinates: 33°35′04″N 130°27′06″E / 33.58444°N 130.45167°E / 33.58444; 130.45167
RJFF is 
located in Japan
Location in Japan
Direction Length Surface
m ft
16/34 2,800 9,186 Asphalt/Concrete
Source: Japanese AIP at AIS Japan[1]


  • On March 31, 1970, Japan Airlines Flight 351, carrying 131 passengers and 7 crew from Tokyo to Fukuoka, was hijacked by 9 members of the Japanese Red Army group. 23 passengers were freed at Fukuoka Airport, mainly children or the elderly. 108 passengers and all crew members with Red Army group left Fukuoka, bound for Gimpo Airport, near Seoul. Three days later, the Red Army group asked to be flown to North Korean capital Pyongyang, before leaving from Seoul, 103 passenger and crew hostages were freed, and 9 Red Army group members surrendered to North Korean authorities.[citation needed]
  • On June 13, 1996, a Garuda Indonesia Airways DC-10, Flight 865, crashed on take-off, killing 3 passengers and injuring 18. The pilot appeared to hesitate about applying full throttle upon a single engine failure. The crash occurred within the airport perimeter when the aircraft was already airborne, nine feet off the ground.[4]
  • On August 12, 2005, metal fragments fell in a Fukuoka residential area from a JALways airplane bound for Honolulu after an engine briefly caught fire shortly after take-off. Two people on the ground were injured by falling debris.[citation needed]

[edit] Alternative sites for the airport

Airport diagram
With Fukuoka's ambitions to become a hub for business and travel in East Asia and former Mayor Mr. Hirotaro Yamasaki's stated ambition to bring the Olympic Games to Fukuoka and Kyūshū in 2016, moving the airport further inland or to an offshore artificial island to accommodate increased traffic has been considered. However, the idea of a new airport in the sea off Shingu has been opposed by environmentalists. The Gan-no-su coastal area has also been mooted, and it was the site of an airfield in the 1940s, but similar environmental concerns exist there.[citation needed]
There is some debate as to whether a new airport is really needed, given the cost, the environmental problems and the nearby and hugely underutilized New Kitakyushu Airport (opened on March 16, 2006) which operates 24 hours a day and Saga Airport. A combination of the three airports appropriately used may provide a solution for the time being.

[edit] Airlines and destinations

Fukuoka Airport Terminal 2 at night
Aircraft of Japan Airlines and All Nippon Airways at Gates 1-6 at Terminal 3
Airlines Destinations
AirAsia Japan Tokyo-Narita [begins 1 August 2012][5]
Air Busan Busan
Air China Beijing-Capital, Dalian, Shanghai-Pudong
Amakusa Airlines Amakusa
All Nippon Airways Naha, Osaka-Itami, Sapporo-Chitose, Tokyo-Haneda
ANA operated by ANA Wings Fukue, Ishigaki, Komatsu, Niigata, Nagoya-Centrair, Naha, Sendai, Tsushima
ANA operated by Air Nippon Osaka-Kansai, Tokyo-Narita
Asiana Airlines Busan, Jeju, Seoul-Incheon
Cathay Pacific Hong Kong, Taipei-Taoyuan
China Airlines Taipei-Taoyuan
China Eastern Airlines Beijing-Capital, Qingdao, Shanghai-Pudong
China Southern Airlines Dalian, Guangzhou, Shenyang
Delta Air Lines Seasonal: Honolulu
Dragonair Hong Kong
EVA Air Taipei-Taoyuan
Fuji Dream Airlines Matsumoto, Shizuoka
Hawaiian Airlines Honolulu
Japan Airlines Miyazaki, Naha, Sapporo-Chitose, Sendai, Tokyo-Haneda, Tokyo-Narita
Japan Airlines operated by J-Air Iwate-Hanamaki, Kochi, Matsuyama, Osaka-Itami, Osaka-Kansai
Japan Airlines operated by Japan Air Commuter Izumo, Kagoshima, Matsumoto, Miyazaki, Osaka-Itami, Tokushima, Yakushima
Japan Airlines operated by Japan Transocean Air Naha
Jeju Air Seoul-Incheon
Jetstar Japan Osaka-Kansai, Tokyo-Narita
Korean Air Busan, Seoul-Incheon
Peach Osaka-Kansai
Philippine Airlines Manila
Skymark Airlines Naha, Tokyo-Haneda, Tokyo-Narita
Singapore Airlines Singapore
T'way Airlines Seoul-Incheon
Thai Airways International Bangkok-Suvarnabhumi
United Airlines Guam
Vietnam Airlines Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City

[edit] Military use

Built in 1943 by the Imperial Japanese Army Air Force, Mushiroda Airfield flew single-engined fighters from the base. After the war, beginning in September 1945 and the end of March 1972, Fukuoka Airport co-existed with the United States Air Force Itazuke Air Base. At its height, Itazuke AB was the largest USAF base on Kyūshū, being closed in the early 1970s due to budget reductions and the reduction of United States military forces in Japan.

[edit] World War II

Mushiroda, or Itazuke, was built on farmland that once grew bumper rice crops during 1943. The base was first used by trainer aircraft. The airfield soon proved unserviceable for the fledgling flyers because of the high water level of the former rice lands. Frequent rain showers flooded the runway making it unsafe for the novice aviators.
The Japanese Air Force's 6th Fighter Wing replaced the trainers and Mushiroda became an air defense base. The 6th Wing had 30 single engine fighters and several reconnaissance aircraft to patrol the Okinawa-Kyūshū aerial invasion corridor. In April 1945 the Tachiarai Airfield at Kurume was destroyed by American B-29's. Tachiarai's bomber aircraft were moved to Mushiroda and the base became very active until late in the war when B-29's attacked the airfield and destroyed most of the Imperial Japanese forces stationed here.

[edit] Postwar era

The first American units moved into the facility in November 1945, when the 38th Bombardment Group stationed B-25 Mitchells on the airfield. Moving to Itazuke from Yontan Airfield, Okinawa, the mission of the 38th Bomb Group was to fly daily surveillance missions to monitor shipping traffic between Kyūshū and Korea in order to intradict smuggling of illegal Korean immigrants and goods. Along with the 38th, the 8th Fighter Group was assigned to the airfield on 1 April 1946 which performed occupation duties until April 1947. Due to the massive destruction of the facility during the War, the only available buildings to house personnel was the Kyūshū Airplane Company's complex in Zasshonokuma. Designated Base Two, the former aircraft company was converted to barracks, dining halls, a post exchange, and BOQ. Additional facilities and billets were housed in a tent city at the airfield.
The 38th Bomb Group remained at Itazuke until October 1946 also during with time several reconstruction units worked on the former IJAAF base rebuilding and constructing new facilities. Headquarters, 315th Bombardment Wing moved into the base during May 1946, spending most of the postwar occupation years at the new American Air Force base.
When the 38th Bomb Group moved to Itami Airfield, it was replaced by the P-61 Black Widow-equipped 347th Fighter Group that moved from Nagoya Airfield. The 347th's mission was to provide air defense of Japanese airspace with the long range former night fighter. the 347th Fighter Wing, All Weather, was established at Itazuke in August 1948 when the unit was reformed under the new United States Air Force "Base-Wing" reorganization. The 347th moved to Bofu Air Base in October. It was replaced by the 475th Fighter Wing which brought with it the new F-82 Twin Mustangs, replacing the wartime Black Widows for air defense missions. Once up to full strength, it was moved to Ashiya Airfield in March 1949.
By early 1949, reconstruction of Itazuke was complete along the construction of long jet runways. The 8th Fighter Wing moved in during March with the F-80C Shooting Star jet, which provided air interceptor defense of Japan

[edit] Korean War

The flightline at Itazuke Air Base, Japan, 1950. The F-82 in the foreground belongs to the 69th All Weather Fighter Squadron, and the F-80s are assigned to the 8th Fighter-Bomber Group
Itazuke played a key role in the Korean War and the defense of the Pusan perimeter in 1950.
On June 25, 1950, North Korea invaded South Korea, starting a war that would last three years. Being the closest USAF base to the Korean Peninsula, the 8th Fighter Wing at Itazuke initially provided air cover for the evacuation of Americans from Korea on June 26, the day after the invasion. In these early operations, Itazuke Air Base supported F-80C Shooting Star jet fighters of the 8th Fighter Wing, along with propeller driven aircraft such as the F-82C Twin Mustangs of the 68th Fighter Squadron, All Weather, and P-51D Mustangs which were shipped from the United States for ground support missions in South Korea. The first aerial victory of the Korean War went to 1Lt William G. Hudson, of the 68th Fighter Squadron, All Weather in an F-82.
During the Korean War, Itazuke was a major combat airfield for the USAF. The 8th Fighter Wing moved to a forward base in South Korea in late Fall of 1950. With the move the support element that remained at Itazuke was redesignated the 6160th Air Base Wing. The USAF moved several of its combat units to the base for operations over Korea, these being the 49th Fighter Group, the 58th Fighter-Bomber Wing; the 51st Fighter-Interceptor Wing; the 452d Bombardment Wing; the 27th Fighter-Escort Wing and the Texas Air National Guard 136th Fighter Group. A wide variety of aircraft operated from the airfield from twin-engined B-26 Invader tactical bombers, F-80 Shooting Stars, F-84 Thunderjets, F-82 Twin Mustangs and F-94 Starfire jet interceptors.

[edit] Cold War

After the 1953 Armistice in Korea, the wartime combat units were slowly withdrawn back to the United States or reassigned to other airfields in Japan and South Korea. The base settled down to another era of peace to become the key base in the defense of Western Japan. The 8th Fighter Wing returned to Itazuke from its forward airfield at Suwon AB (K-13), South Korea in October 1954, being the host unit at the base for the next ten years.
During the 1950s, the 8th flew the F-86 Sabre for air defense of Japan and South Korea, being upgraded to the new F-100 Super Sabre in 1956. In 1961 the wing received Air Defense Command F-102 Delta Daggers, specifically designed for the air defense mission.
The 8th was reassigned back to the United States in July 1964 to George AFB, California where it was equipped with the new F-4C Phantom II and eventually became a major USAF combat wing in Thailand during the Vietnam War. With the departure of the 8th TFW, the 348th Combat Support Group became the host unit at Itazuke, with the Pacific Air Forces 41st Air Division becoming the operational USAF unit at the base. During the 1960s and numerous rotational units from the United States deployed to the base. The F-105 Thunderchief-equipped 35th Tactical Fighter Squadron was the major flying organization until 1968, when it was moved to Thailand for combat operations over North Vietnam during the Vietnam War. During the Vietnam War, a detachment of the 552d Airborne Early Warning and Control Wing which operated C-121 Constellation AWACS aircraft operated from Itazuke, but the stable situation in South Korea led to the gradual phase down of the base and personnel were withdrawn for other duties.
In 1971 it was announced that Itazuke would be returned to Japanese control, and the USAF facilities were closed on 31 March 1972.

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