TOKYO, JAPAN – A Japan Airlines plane made a miraculous escape as all 379 passengers and crew managed to evacuate the aircraft after it hit another plane while landing at Haneda airport in Tokyo and burst into flames. The Japanese coastguard, however, is mourning the loss of five out of the six crew members from their aircraft, which was destroyed in the collision.
The cause of the accident is still unclear, with no reports of engine or other problems before the Japan Airlines flight 516 landed, according to a transport ministry official. Footage from the airport showed the passenger plane appearing to smash into an object while landing, indicating that the coastguard aircraft may have still been on the runway or close to it. Previous airport accidents at night or in bad weather have occurred when one plane has not left the active runway before a landing aircraft touches down or takes off.
The Japan Airlines (JAL) Airbus A350 aircraft had departed from New Chitose airport on the mountainous northern island of Hokkaido and landed in Haneda shortly before 6pm. The collision involved a plane, a Bombardier-built Dash 8, that was headed to Niigata airport on Japan’s west coast to deliver aid to those affected by a powerful earthquake that struck on New Year’s Day, killing at least 55 people.
Despite the intense fire and smoke inside the cabin, all 367 passengers, including eight children, along with 12 crew members managed to flee to safety. However, the Tokyo fire department reported that at least 17 of the evacuated individuals from the passenger plane were injured. The captain of the coastguard aircraft escaped the blaze but was injured as well. Haneda airport, one of the main airports serving the Japanese capital, was closed for several hours as a result of the accident.
As investigations into the cause of the accident continue, aviation accidents involving passenger jets have become extremely rare in recent decades, with airports and airlines implementing new procedures and technologies to reduce the risk of collision. Nevertheless, this incident serves as a reminder of the potential dangers that still persist in the aviation industry.