Tokyo, Japan – January 2, 2024
At Tokyo’s Haneda airport, a Japan Airlines flight, carrying hundreds of passengers, caught fire on the runway after colliding with a Japan Coast Guard aircraft. The collision resulted in the confirmed death of five out of six crew members on the Coast Guard aircraft, as reported by Tokyo police. The pilot of the Coast Guard plane, who managed to evacuate, is reportedly severely injured.
The Coast Guard aircraft was en route to Niigata to provide relief for the recent earthquake, according to initial reports. The tragic collision occurred during a critical mission to aid earthquake-stricken areas.
Japan Airlines confirmed that all 367 passengers and 12 crew members on board the Airbus A350 safely evacuated the burning plane. Flight JL516 departed from the northern island of Hokkaido and landed at Tokyo Haneda at 5:47 p.m. local time (3:47 a.m. ET).
Dramatic video footage circulated on social media captured the intensity of the situation, with passengers utilizing emergency evacuation slides and rushing across the tarmac. Eleven passengers from the burning plane were transported to a hospital or airport clinic due to feeling unwell, though no further details about their condition were provided by Japan Airlines.
Emergency workers promptly closed all runways at Haneda airport to address the blaze, causing significant disruptions to air travel. Haneda, the busiest airport in the Asia-Pacific region last year, saw all three runways resume operation later, as reported by a transport ministry official.
Transport Minister Tetsuo Saito provided an update after 8:30 p.m. Tokyo time, confirmed the tragic loss of five crew members from the Coast Guard aircraft. The cause of the collision remains unknown, pending further investigation.
European planemaker Airbus announced its intention to send a team of specialists to provide technical assistance to French and Japanese authorities as they investigate the incident at Haneda airport. In a statement, Airbus expressed condolences, stating, “Our concerns and sympathy go to the families, friends, and loved ones affected by the accident.”
The collision, involving an Airbus A350, marks the first major accident for this aircraft model, known for its advanced materials such as carbon-fiber-reinforced plastic. The efforts of the Japan Airlines crew and pilots received praise from air safety experts, emphasizing their focus on safety during the evacuation.
As investigations unfold, the aviation community and the public mourn the loss of lives in this tragic aviation incident that has sent shockwaves through Tokyo’s Haneda airport.