Tokyo: Japanese investigators are scrutinizing a potentially catastrophic collision at Haneda Airport, Tokyo, involving a coast guard plane and a passenger jet, which airline executives claim had been granted permission to land. Tragically, all five occupants of the coast guard aircraft lost their lives, while all 379 passengers and crew members managed to escape to safety through emergency slides just moments before the Japan Airlines Airbus burst into flames late Tuesday.
The charred remains of the airliner, still present on the tarmac as of Wednesday, serve as a stark reminder of the narrow escape. The coast guard plane’s captain, the sole survivor, sustained serious injuries. Video footage from Tuesday depicts a fiery explosion and thick black smoke emerging from beneath the airliner shortly after landing, with the front landing gear collapsing, causing it to come to a halt on its nose.
Passengers were seen evacuating through inflatable slides as flames erupted from the rear of the aircraft in videos posted on the X social media platform. Despite efforts by numerous fire engines with flashing blue and red lights, the entire plane was engulfed, taking eight hours to fully extinguish the fire.
A female passenger shared her experience, stating, “As soon as we landed, there was a ‘bang.’ And I noticed a blaze rising from the right side. It was getting hot inside the plane, and I thought, to be honest, I would not survive.”
Another woman, with a small child, recounted, “I thought we landed normally. But then I realized I was smelling smoke. I looked outside and it was already burning. I needed to protect my daughter. That was the only thing on my mind.”
Government officials pledged to investigate the incident, marking a rare commercial aviation accident in a country that has not experienced such events for decades. Japan Airlines acknowledged that the flight had been granted landing permission, but details of the air traffic control exchanges are still under investigation.
In a recording from Haneda’s control tower just before the collision, a voice instructs JAL’s flight to “continue approach.” Airbus, the manufacturer of the JAL plane, pledged to send a team of specialists to assist Japanese authorities in their investigation. The Airbus A350 had arrived from New Chitose Airport in Sapporo, serving Hokkaido’s northern island. The coast guard plane, en route to Ishikawa prefecture to deliver supplies after the New Year’s Day earthquake, had a crew committed to aiding quake victims. Prime Minister Fumio Kishida praised the deceased crew members for their dedication to helping the affected areas. This incident revives concerns in a country where, in 1985, a JAL jumbo jet crash resulted in one of the world’s deadliest plane accidents, killing 520 passengers and crew members.
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