Alex Thomson on the remarkable effort to keep Japan’s airports operational just ten days after the devastating tsunami.
You know what? I don’t think I will ever take it for granted, just driving up to the set-down bay at an airport departure terminal.
Because this morning we did exactly that at Sendai airport in northeast Japan, and this in itself is an enormous feat.
It’s true, nobody will be checking in to domestic departures, for instance, for some time.
Lots of mud, broken glass, roughly 20 tonnes or so of tree trunks and three smashed Toyotas make negotiating the hole where the front door was, a little tricky.
Nevertheless, a cheery US Marine in a Very Large Digger is having a fine old time charging up and down and forklifting away the vehicles – but there are hundreds of them.
Looking around, you think nothing is going to move here for weeks, no, months.
But come round the corner and get airside – and suddenly you’re thinking: “Tsunami – what tsunami?”
You look out and the entire two-mile long sweep from apron, out to the runway is entirely clear.
And what’s this? A sleek, grey US Air Force Lear Jet is taxiing calmly to a standstill. Presently, a C130 transport aircraft is due to land no doubt with the same perfunctory lack of fuss.
And yet we are standing right under the CCTV camera which memorably showed our entire view being swamped by an enormous rolling barrage of brown syrupy filth – YouTube it if you’ve not already seen it.
Then look tonight and quite honestly gaze in wonder at what the Japanese Self-Defence Forces have achieved here – with a little help from Uncle Sam – in just ten days.