Japan plane on 3rd quake mission when runway disaster hit

Doomed Japan plane on 3rd quake mission when runway disaster hit

/ 10:13 AM January 05, 2024

Japan plane on 3rd quake mission when runway disaster hit

An aerial view shows burnt Japan Coast Guard aircraft after a collision with Japan Airlines (JAL) Airbus A350 plane at Haneda International Airport in Tokyo, Japan, on January 3, 2024, in this photo Kyodo took. Mandatory credit Kyodo/via REUTERS / File Photo

TOKYO — A Coast Guard plane was making its third emergency trip to an earthquake zone within 24 hours when it collided with a passenger jet at a bustling Haneda airport, a Coast Guard official told Reuters.

The official declined to be named due to an ongoing investigation into the runway crash between the De Havilland Dash-8 turboprop and a Japan Airlines Airbus A350 passenger jet. Five of the six Coast Guard crew died, but all 379 people on the JAL plane escaped.


Details of the Coast Guard plane’s movements before the collision have not previously been reported.


The surviving pilot from the Coast Guard crew is under scrutiny after authorities released control tower transcripts appearing to show he was ordered to enter a holding area near the runway before the crash occurred.

READ: 5 dead in Japan plane collision at Tokyo airport

He said he had permission to enter the runway where the Japan Airlines (JAL) plane was landing, the Coast Guard said on Wednesday, acknowledging there was no indication of that in the transcripts.

It is unclear whether the volume of airport traffic or the emergency response to the earthquake that struck late afternoon on Jan. 1, destroying thousands of homes and killing at least 84 people, were factors in the accident.

Aviation experts say airplane accidents usually involve multiple variables and the failure of several safety guardrails.

In the 24 hours before the collision, the Coast Guard aircraft had already made two round trips from Haneda to the quake zone, a 3.5-hour survey of the area shortly after the magnitude 7.6 quake struck on Jan 1, and a flight carrying rescue workers that returned early on Jan. 2, the official said.


Reuters verified the timings with flight tracking data on adsbexchange.com.

Full capacity

Tokyo Haneda is the world’s third busiest airport, according to OAG, a UK-based travel industry data provider. Flight schedules data from Cirium analyzed by Reuters showed an average of 1,290 flights departed and arrived at Haneda daily in December.

On the day of the accident, a public holiday in Japan, the airport was at full capacity, said Shigenori Hiraoka, director general of the Civil Aviation Bureau.

READ: Japan quake rescuers race against time as survival limit nears

It was no ordinary day for the Coast Guard either.

The doomed plane had early that morning returned with a different crew from a mission taking relief workers to an area devastated by the earthquake, the Coast Guard official also told Reuters.

Thousands of rescue workers were scrambled to respond to the disaster.

Captain Genki Miyamoto, 39, and his crew were preparing to take the plane – one of four stationed at the Coast Guard base at Haneda – back to the earthquake zone loaded with food and water.

The aircraft arrived back at Haneda from its second mission at 2.30 a.m. local time and left the hanger of the base again at 4.45 p.m., the official said.

The collision occurred at 5.47 p.m., authorities said.

In normal times, the Coast Guard tends to fly mid-morning when runways are less busy, the official said, adding the airport was “very busy” on the day of the accident.

Miyamoto, the pilot, also had a busy schedule.

READ: Japan plane crash: Runway safety concerns in focus

The day before, he had been on a 7-hour mission to Japan’s southernmost island, Okinotori, where he had been surveying a Chinese vessel off its waters. He returned around 5 p.m., just after the earthquake struck.

At that point, the official said his mission was not scheduled for the next day.

Miyamoto suffered severe burns as a result of the crash and could not be reached for comment.

The official said he had been a captain for nearly five years and had clocked up 3,641 hours of flight time.

Your subscription could not be saved. Please try again.
Your subscription has been successful.

Subscribe to our daily newsletter

By providing an email address. I agree to the Terms of Use and acknowledge that I have read the Privacy Policy.

The destroyed aircraft – JA722A – was the only Japan Coast Guard airplane not destroyed when a 2011 tsunami hit Sendai airport in northeast Japan, according to an official Coast Guard newsletter. It suffered some water damage but was restored and returned to Haneda the following year.

TAGS: Crash, Japan Airlines

© Copyright 1997-2024 INQUIRER.net | All Rights Reserved

We use cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. By continuing, you are agreeing to our use of cookies. To find out more, please click this link.