In a harrowing incident at Tokyo’s Haneda airport, a Japan Airlines plane burst into flames following a collision with a smaller coastguard aircraft on the runway. The catastrophic event unfolded as the Airbus, arriving from Sapporo, skidded on the blazing tarmac, resulting in a fire that engulfed the aircraft.
All 379 passengers and crew aboard the Japan Airlines Flight 516 were successfully evacuated, displaying commendable efforts by the flight crew. Unfortunately, five of the six crew members on the coastguard plane lost their lives, with the captain sustaining injuries.
The incident occurred shortly before 18:00 local time after the flight had departed from Sapporo’s New Chitose airport. Video footage captured the dramatic moment when the plane burst into flames upon landing, prompting passengers to evacuate through emergency slides.
Passengers recounted the terrifying experience, with one stating, “I felt a boom like we had hit something and jerked upward the moment we landed. I saw sparks outside the window, and the cabin filled with gas and smoke.”
Air safety experts lauded the flight crew for their swift response in ensuring the safe evacuation of all passengers. The cause of the collision remains unclear, and investigations are underway to determine the circumstances leading to the tragic event.
Authorities reported that the flight crew had not reported any issues before landing, and exchanges with air traffic controllers are under scrutiny. The Japan Coast Guard is conducting an investigation to establish the details of the collision.
Following the incident, all four runways at Haneda airport were temporarily closed, disrupting travel plans for thousands of passengers. Flights were grounded or diverted to alternative airports in Japan as emergency services worked to extinguish the blaze.
The involved aircraft, an Airbus A350, sustained significant damage in what marks the first major accident involving this new generation of planes constructed with advanced materials like carbon fibre-reinforced plastic. Airbus is dispatching a team of specialists to assist in the investigation in Japan.
Prime Minister Fumio Kishida expressed regret over the incident, emphasizing efforts to ensure that the tragedy does not hinder the delivery of earthquake relief supplies. He acknowledged the dedication of the coastguard crew in their mission to aid earthquake-stricken areas.
At least 14 individuals from the Japan Airlines flight suffered minor injuries, according to fire officials. Flights at Haneda resumed, with all runways except the one involved in the collision reopening later in the evening.
As the investigation unfolds, questions linger about the circumstances surrounding the collision and the potential implications for air travel safety.
Watch the video of the crash here: