It had been a cold and windy day, so the hangar doors at Jamco's facility were almost closed. As a result, the water could flood in but without too much violence. An expensively equipped Japanese government Bombardier Q400, ready for delivery and sealed up with doors closed, floated serenely, perfectly dry inside. Without even engine damage, it was later inspected and, after careful cleaning of some exposed parts and replacement of others, returned to service. The other aircraft all have been scrapped or will be.
Jamco Sendai's people spent the night in the freezing administration building, not knowing what had happened to their families, and their families not knowing what had happened to them. The next day they were still surrounded by water but, being in aircraft maintenance, were well equipped to get to dry ground: they rowed inland in aircraft emergency rafts.
Recovery would be hard, but first Jamco had to decide whether there would be a recovery. The company considered whether to shut the operation, rebuild it with a different maintenance capabilities, or put it back to the way it had been. It chose the latter.
Not only were tools in the hangar immersed in seawater. The accessory shop was on the ground floor, too. There the water destroyed equipment for working on landing gear, propellers, avionics, electrical systems, sheet metal and emergency floats and life rafts, says Ariga Yasuyuki, assistant manager of the engineering center. Nondestructive testing equipment itself suffered a very destructive test.
The facility's air-conditioner compressors, water supply and fire-fighting equipment were knocked out. The partial opening of the main doors helped equalize the water height inside, ensuring the hangars did not bend or burst, but doors and walls across the facility were smashed.
The best news, apart from the survival of the entire staff, was that the computer server and all documents, including manuals and records, were high and dry on the second floor of the stout administration block. They suffered no significant damage.
With the decision to put the show back on the road, Jamco Sendai ordered equipment and cleaned the site. Half of the facility's people worked on the recovery; the others were temporarily sent to other Jamco divisions.
The government cleaned surrounding public land, such as roads; but Jamco had to find its own earth-moving equipment, amid frantic demand, to clear its site. Luckily Jamco had a good relationship with a local construction company, so within a few weeks it had begun moving the muck—along with cars, aircraft and even buildings that had been swept onto the site. The crew worked with shovels, mops, brushes, sponges and buckets to get everything spic and span, as an aviation facility, especially a Japanese one, should be.
They had no electricity until May, when Jamco obtained a generator, and no public electricity until June. For the first month, work was repeatedly interrupted by aftershocks. If that was not unnerving enough, 60 km away engineers were struggling to control the Fukushima nuclear power station reactors.
Recovery planning, reviewed by the civil aviation bureau, was simplified by the decision to rebuild the facility as it had been. Managers just needed to order equipment that was the same or similar to what had been destroyed. Delivery of the equipment was not always as easy as ordering, however, because electricity in East Japan is supplied at 100 volts and 50 hz, an uncommon specification. U.S. manufacturer Tronair needed three months to supply hydraulic stands that could use that current.