TOKYO (AP) — A large airliner and a Japan Coast Guard plane collided on the runway at Tokyo's Haneda Airport on Tuesday and burst into flames, killing five people on board the Coast Guard plane, officials said.
Transport Minister Tetsu Saito confirmed that all 379 people on board Japan Airlines flight JAL-516 exited safely before the Airbus A350 completely burst into flames.
Saito said the pilot of the Coast Guard Bombardier Dash-8 plane escaped but the five crew members died. Officials said that the plane was preparing to take off to deliver aid to an area affected by a strong earthquake on Monday.
Television footage showed an orange fireball erupting from the Japan Airlines plane as it collided with the Coast Guard plane during landing, and then the plane spewed smoke from its side as it continued on the runway. Within 20 minutes, all passengers and crew members were down the emergency chutes to escape.
While firefighters were trying to put out the fire using streams of water, the area surrounding the plane's wing caught fire. The fire spread throughout the plane, which eventually collapsed. The fire was extinguished after about six hours.
Tuesday's accident was the first time the Airbus A350, among the industry's newest large passenger planes, had been seriously damaged. It entered commercial service in 2015. Airbus said in a statement that it would send specialists to assist Japanese and French authorities, and that the plane was delivered to Japan Airlines in late 2021.
The Minister of Transport said that the A350 plane took off from Shin Chitose Airport near the city of Sapporo.
The A350 was making a “normal entry and landing” on the runway, JAL CEO Tadayuki Tsutsumi said at a news conference late Tuesday, without specifying how it collided with the Coast Guard plane. Noriyuki Aoki, who is also JAL's CEO, said the airline's understanding was that the JAL flight had permission to land from flight control officials.
Police are expected to investigate the incident on suspicion of professional negligence, NHK television reported.
Coast Guard spokesman Yoshinori Yanagishima said its Bombardier Dash-8 plane, based in Haneda, was scheduled to head to Niigata to deliver relief supplies to residents affected by the typhoon. Deadly earthquake In the area on Monday. The Dash-8 turboprop engine is widely used on short-haul flights and passenger flights.
Coast Guard Deputy Commander Yoshio Seguchi told reporters that the Coast Guard pilot informed his base that his plane exploded after colliding with the commercial plane.
Shigenori Hiraoka, head of the Civil Aviation Bureau at the Ministry of Transport, said the collision occurred when the JAL plane landed on one of Haneda's four runways where the Coast Guard plane was preparing to take off. Transportation safety officials were analyzing contact between flight control officials and the two planes and planned to interview JAL officials to determine the cause of the collision.
Hiraoka praised JAL for “taking appropriate measures” to safely evacuate all passengers and crew members.
“The entire cabin was filled with smoke within a few minutes,” Swede Anton Deby, 17, a passenger on the Japan Airlines plane, told the Swedish newspaper Aftonbladet. We threw ourselves on the ground. Then the emergency doors opened and we threw ourselves at them.
“The smoke in the cabin stung as hell. It was hell. We had no idea where we were going so we ran out into the field. It was chaos,” Debbie added.
Another passenger told NHK TV that the cabin attendants were calm and asked everyone to leave their luggage behind, then all the lights went out and the temperature inside the cabin began to rise. The passenger said she feared she would not get off the plane alive.
All passengers and crew slid down the escape chutes within 20 minutes of landing and survived. Some passengers said in media interviews that they felt relieved only after arriving at a grassy area outside the runway.
Japan Airlines said that four passengers were taken to a medical facility, and that the company was checking for injuries. NHK said 14 other people were injured.
The Minister of Transport said that officials are doing their best to prevent any delay in the delivery of relief materials and other operations to the affected area. Transport officials said the airport's three other runways had reopened.
Haneda is the busiest of the two major airports serving the Japanese capital, with many international and intercontinental flights. It is particularly favored by business travelers due to its proximity to the central parts of the city.
The twin-engine, twin-aisle A350 is used by a number of international long-haul airlines. According to Airbus, more than 570 aircraft are in operation.
Japan Airlines operates 16 A350-900 aircraft, according to its website. It recently announced details of the 13 newer A350-1000 aircraft it plans to introduce into service, saying it will become “the new leader in international service after almost 20 years”. The first of those planes arrived a few weeks ago, and was scheduled to travel the Haneda-New York JFK route.
The International Air Transport Association's trade group said on the X social media platform that its thoughts were with those on board the two planes, saying that “the last two days have been difficult for Japan.”
Yamaguchi reported from Kyoto, Japan. Adam Schreck in Osaka, Japan, and Jan M. Olsen in Copenhagen, Denmark, contributed to this report.
“Travel specialist. Typical social media scholar. Friend of animals everywhere. Freelance zombie ninja. Twitter buff.”