Japan’s Kagoshima Airport opened in 1972 as a replacement for the airfield used by the Imperial Japanese Navy. That airfield began operations in 1957 the same year that the Russians launched the first human-made objects into orbit, Sputnik I & II. It ended its operations in the same year that Eugene Cernan left the last human footprints on the Moon in 1972. It’s interesting that this airfield paralleled the most interesting time in human space exploration.
Equipped with a 3,000 m (9,843 foot) runway, they handle over five million passengers a year and 32,000 metric tons of cargo. Domestic flights have nine gates available, but interestingly only one gate for international flights.
The old area was somewhat rural, and has been developed in the “new town” planning style where everything is calculated and laid out in advance instead of being allowed to randomly develop like an “ad hoc” town. The modern city has a central area of office towers and government buildings, surrounded by high density housing.
The last fatalities recorded there were in 1964 (20 of 42 occupants) when a plane over ran the runway by 142 metres and ended up in a dried up riverbed. There was another runway excursion of 130 metres in 1969 (no injuries), and in 2004 there was a main landing gear collapse on a DC-9 due to metal fatigue, with no fatalities, and 3 minor injuries. Other than that, this airport seems to have a spotless record.
If you want to see what is going on at KOJ, you can watch their live webcam at any time. Some configurations of Firefox do not deal well with this site because the site has security misconfigurations (the name on the security certificate is wrong). In that state you cannot control the zooming, or steer the camera around left, right, up, or down or often even get an image.
Google Chrome handles it better because of their lower security requirements. I’ve experienced no problems there, and it is probably a simple misspelling (perhaps due to translating from Japanese to English).
Here’s a video, showing a cockpit view of a landing at RJFK/KOJ Kagoshima Airport. As you can see by the designation, it is an international airport. Typically all air traffic control communications are in English by international agreement, but you can hear several Japanese interjections during the ATC exchanges. Maybe it doesn’t apply to small local craft and regional flights?
You can enjoy the long flight in through the mist and cloud or by right-clicking on the screen and setting the Play Speed to “Ludicrous” so you can see what it looks like to an F-15 pilot coming in at just under ultrasonic speed. That’s always fun!
To add that extra layer of reality, don’t forget to check out the Flight Radar. There is a special feature that cannot be linked directly, but I’ll explain it thusly: Once you are in the feature at the link above, choose an interesting plane, and click on it. On the left side of the screen you will see a box with details about the craft. You’ll also see a cube shape with 3D in it…
Click that and you will be taken to a graphic representation of that plane, flying over a Google Earth type map, showing you precisely where the plane is, and what it is flying over. You can move the image around with your mouse and observe it from any angle.
If you’re a fan of Air Traffic Control you can watch the skies around Kagoshima Airport here. Clicking on any plane will identify it for you, where green is outbound, blue is inbound, and gray is just passing through the airspace.
Unique among airports, or at least I’ve never seen anything like it, Kagoshima Airport imports water by tanker truck from local hot springs and creates an artificial hot spring called “Oyattosa” , which in the Kagoshima dialect means either “you have worked hard” or “you deserve a break”. It has multiple benches for seating two or more people, so at least 20 people can participate simultaneously along with space for six wheelchairs.
They also have fresh towels available for ¥200 (CAN$ 2.35/US$1.75) for after you’re done. It seems to be a very popular attraction, about 25 cm deep, with natural rock and bamboo accents. It is maintained at 46° C for the best effect. It’s a terrific way to relax after a long stressful flight, and it just a good excuse to do absolutely nothing as you’re waiting for departure. Check it out!