The government has begun a trial implementation of an air route over the Izu Island chain in Tokyo set aside exclusively for helicopters and small aircraft, mainly for use during disasters or other emergencies, according to sources.
If such a route were officially implemented, it would enable small aircraft, including rescue helicopters, to travel even in bad weather and low visibility conditions.
After a trial period of one year, the Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism Ministry aims to have air routes exclusively for small aircraft established across the nation.
While large aircraft, such as passenger airplanes, cruise through air routes with the help of the Global Positioning System, small aircraft are generally navigated by a pilot who uses only their eyes to confirm the safety of a route.
Small planes equipped with GPS or other special devices can fly in bad weather, but face certain restrictions due to not having air routes cut out for them.
On May 29, the ministry began the trial operation of a 180-kilometer air route for small aircraft between Izu Oshima island and Hachijojima island at an altitude of 1,600 meters, permitting helicopters from fire departments and media organisations to travel the route.
The airspace over Izu Oshima island has some of the most congested air traffic in the world as airplanes using Haneda Airport pass through it.
The trial air route will cross the route for large aircraft, but there is no danger of small airplanes and helicopters coming close to large airplanes as their route is set at a lower altitude.