The Airbus A350, filled with 379 passengers and crew, collided with a Coast Guard plane immediately after landing, igniting a massive fire. In a tragic turn, five of the six Coast Guard crew members perished.
Satoshi Yamake, a 59-year-old telecom worker, was among those returning to Tokyo. “I felt the jolt and saw the engine ablaze,” he recalled, painting a vivid picture of the chaos that ensued at 5.46 pm. The circumstances of the collision, a rarity in modern aviation thanks to advanced safety measures, are currently under intense investigation.
Genki Miyamoto, the 39-year-old captain of the Coast Guard plane, miraculously survived, though his crewmates, aged between 27 and 56, were not as fortunate. Miyamoto’s survival and subsequent alert to his base about the explosion added a glimmer of hope amidst the tragedy.
Inside the JAL aircraft, a scene of panic unfolded as smoke engulfed the cabin. Tsubasa Sawada, a 28-year-old resident of Tokyo, described the initial underestimation of the situation, which quickly escalated as the fire grew. “I really thought I was going to die,” Sawada expressed, echoing the sentiments of many aboard.
Despite the ensuing chaos, the flight attendants played a pivotal role in maintaining order, urging passengers to remain calm and cooperate. Their efforts were complemented by the swift response of 115 fire-fighting units, who battled the flames that eventually consumed the aircraft.
Yamake praised the efficiency and orderliness of the evacuation, noting the absence of hand luggage, a practice often discouraged by aviation safety agencies. Paul Hayes, an air safety director, lauded this as a miraculous achievement, emphasizing the critical role of the cabin crew.
“I can only say it was a miracle, we could have died if we were late,” a passenger told Reuters.
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The Japanese transport ministry acknowledged the airline’s evacuation procedures as “conducted appropriately.” Sawada’s reflection on the incident as a “miracle” underscores the passengers’ collective relief and newfound apprehension towards flying.
According to a CNN report, this incident at Haneda Airport highlights the crucial role of aviation safety procedures, a legacy of past tragedies that have shaped current standards. Graham Braithwaite, a professor at Cranfield University, points to Japan Airlines’ transformation following a devastating accident in 1985, where 520 lives were lost due to a faulty repair. This event marked a turning point for the airline, leading to a culture deeply rooted in safety and continuous improvement.
JAL staff are acutely aware that the current standards of aviation safety have been established through past tragedies. As one pilot poignantly told CNN, these safety records are “written in the blood of others who haven’t been so fortunate.” This somber reality underlines the fact that each accident is transformed into a learning opportunity, “shared across the industry so crew can all be better at their jobs.”
Japan Airlines’ commitment to safety is evident in its consistent ranking among the world’s safest airlines by Airlineratings.com. Geoffrey Thomas, the editor-in-chief, commends the airline for its safety record post-1985, a testament to its adherence to stringent safety audits and procedures, the CNN report said.
(With inputs from agencies)
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