A heavy lifting vehicle clears damaged cars at Sendai airport

Sendai Airport recovery likely to take time after quake and tsunami

Sendai International Airport will be refurbished extensively with funding from the Federal government, but not immediately.

Refurbishing the airport is not an immediate priority, said Sho Saki, an official at the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism, as the welfare of homeless people is of paramount importance.

Investigations into the extent of the damage to the foundations of the facility and power and communications systems will be carried out at later stage.

“Getting the airport into shape for commercial operational again is surely our objective but this will be done when the time is right and funds available,” Sho stressed.

No commercial aircraft were nearby when the tsunami hit the airport, but there was untold damage to light aircraft and helicopters parked there. The runway was littered with vehicles and floodwaters reached the second level of the four-storey passenger terminal building, which was also piled with debris. Power was cut off, rendering radar and communications equipment inoperable. Japanese authorities initially thought that the airport had been wiped out.

Air traffic control at Sado Airport and Odate-Noshiro Airport, which were controlled by SIA, have been suspended indefinitely.

Sendai is currently being used for humanitarian flights after US airmen from the special operations forces based at the Yokota Air Base cleared a portion of runway. An antenna was set up on the roof of the terminal and generators brought in to supply power, enabling US combat controllers and Japan Self Defence Force personnel to provide air traffic control in support of relief operations.

The airport reopened for restricted commercial operation on 13 April, but passengers are warned to expect very limited facilities. Before the disaster SIA was served by nine airlines from Japan, US, China, Taiwan and South Korea, with 40 domestic and international flights daily.

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