Japan probes deadly Tokyo runway collision for negligence

Reports suggest that one of the planes may not have had permission to be on the runway.

The burnt out wreckage of the JAL plane on the runway. The cabin in the middle is black and destroyed. The wings are still visible and white.
Firefighters took six hours to put out the flames that engulfed the A350 [Kyodo/via Reuters]

Japanese police are investigating the deadly collision of two planes at Tokyo’s Haneda airport for possible professional negligence.

The incident saw a Japan Airlines (JAL) Airbus A350 engulfed in flames after hitting a turboprop aircraft crewed by six members of the coastguard. All 379 people on board the passenger jet were safely evacuated, but only one survived from the smaller aircraft, which was headed to aid in the rescue of victims of Monday’s earthquake.

Tokyo’s Metropolitan Police Department said on Wednesday that it will investigate the possibility that professional negligence led to the deaths and injuries, news outlets including Kyodo news agency, Nikkei Asia and Nippon TV reported.

A police spokesperson said a special investigation unit had been set up at the airport and was investigating the runway and planning to interview people involved. They declined to comment on whether they were looking into possible professional negligence.


Japan Airlines said that the aircraft had recognised and repeated the landing permission from air traffic control before approaching and touching down.

According to air traffic control recordings available at LiveATC.net, the JAL plane was cleared to land at 17:45 local time (08:45 GMT), minutes before authorities say the collision occurred.

However, officials said on Wednesday that, based on control tower transcripts, it appeared that the coast guard plane was not cleared for take-off.

Second investigation

In a separate development, the Japan Safety Transport Board (JTSB) said it was also conducting its own inquiry into the crash.

The investigation involves collaboration with French and British authorities, as the Airbus aircraft was made in France, and its Rolls-Royce engines were manufactured in Britain.

Airbus is also dispatching technical advisers to support the investigation. According to the Kyodo news agency, the JTSB has successfully retrieved flight and voice recorders from the coastguard aircraft involved in the collision.

Japan has not experienced a significant aviation incident since 1985, when a JAL jumbo jet crashed in the central Gunma region while en route from Tokyo to Osaka, resulting in the loss of 520 passengers and crew; an incident that ranks among the deadliest plane crashes globally.

Source: News Agencies