No Abnormal Flight Data from Missing MSDF Helicopters East of Torishima Island; Defense Minister States Cause of Probable Crash Still Unknown

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Defense Minister Minoru Kihara, second from right, and MSDF Chief of Staff Adm. Ryo Sakai, right, hold a press conference in response to the crash of two MSDF helicopters, at the Defense Ministry in Tokyo on Monday.

Defense Minister Minoru Kihara said Monday that the flight data recorders of the Maritime Self-Defense Force’s SH-60K patrol helicopters recovered after their apparent crash above the waters east of the Izu island chain have “no data that would indicate that there was anything wrong with the aircraft during flight at this time.” The MSDF is analyzing the data in more detail to determine the cause of the accident.

The FDR is a device that records the movement of aircraft. Kihara said at the press conference that “we were able to retrieve the data safely” from the two FDRs. The Defense Ministry believes that the two helicopters most likely collided in mid-air, but Kihara limited himself to stating that the cause could be “a variety of things.”

The MSDF’s accident investigation committee is also interviewing crew members of another helicopter that was involved in the drill at the site along with the two that crashed.

The accident occurred above waters about 280 kilometers east of Torishima Island, part of the Izu island chain. That area of the sea has a depth of 5,500 meters. Several pieces of wreckage including blades from the two helicopters and several helmets were recovered in the area.

MSDF Chief of Staff Adm. Ryo Sakai said at a press conference that he believed that the main part of the aircraft had sunk to the bottom of the sea and he would try to locate them using MSDF oceanographic observation ships.

Eight people were on board the two aircraft, one of whom was confirmed dead after being rescued, and seven others remain missing. The Self-Defense-Forces and Japan Coast Guard are continuing their search on Monday with about 10 vessels and five aircraft.