Collision at Tokyo-Haneda Airport | Airbus pilots claim not to have seen the other plane on the ground

(Tokyo) The pilots of the Japan Airlines (JAL) plane at the heart of a spectacular accident Tuesday at Tokyo-Haneda airport claimed not to have seen the aircraft with which they collided and did not having felt the “impact” only upon landing.

“‘We could not have visual contact (with the coast guard plane, Editor’s note)’, the pilots told us,” a JAL spokesperson told AFP, regarding the accident which left five dead among the passengers of the Bombardier Dash 8 hit by the Japanese company’s Airbus.

“They say it was just as the wheels hit the ground or were about to hit the ground that they felt an impact,” he added. “One of the three pilots told us he saw an object just before impact.”

Tuesday at 5:47 p.m. (3:47 a.m. Eastern time), as night fell over Tokyo, JAL516 coming from Sapporo, in the north of the archipelago, collided upon landing with a smaller aircraft, which was preparing to take off towards the Noto peninsula (center) where a terrible earthquake occurred on Monday.

The impact caused an impressive explosion and the Airbus A350-900 immediately caught fire, coming to rest a few hundred meters further to the side of the runway.

All of the plane’s 379 passengers and crew members were evacuated before the Airbus went up in smoke on the side of the runway.

The JAL spokesperson also clarified that the pilots were initially unaware that their aircraft was on fire.

“Unlike vehicles, they do not have rear-view mirrors. When the fire started (at the rear of the aircraft), they could not see it from the cockpit. It was the cabin crew who warned them, said the JAL spokesperson.

According to the NHK television channel, they only became aware of the fire when the cabin manager asked them for authorization to open the emergency exits, and as the cabin began to be invaded by smoke and intense heat causing the start of panic.

Due to the fire, only two slides could be activated at the front of the aircraft, according to NHK.

” Human error ”

Eighteen minutes elapsed between the impact (5:47 p.m.) and the moment when the last person, the captain, found himself on the tarmac (6:05 p.m.).

“I am surprised that they (the passengers) came out of the plane without a scratch (Editor’s note: the death toll includes 15 injured) because of the power of the impact. When we model this kind of accident on a runway, we start from the principle that the two planes will be destroyed and that there will be many victims,” Guido Carim Junior, an expert in the field, commented to AFP on Thursday. Griffith University in Australia.

The causes of the collision are still unexplained, but “human error” probably contributed, say two aviation experts, Doug Drury of the University of Central Queensland and Terence Fan of the Singapore Management University, also interviewed by the AFP.


The wreck of the Bombardier Dash 8

Tuesday evening during a press briefing, a Japan Airlines manager affirmed that permission to land “had been given” to the Airbus, a version supported by radio exchanges from the control tower, as AFP viewed on the site.

“Japan 516, clearance to land,” can be heard from an air traffic controller at 5:45 p.m. local time (3:45 a.m. Eastern), two minutes before the collision.

According to the continuation of these radio exchanges communicated Wednesday by the Japanese Ministry of Transport, the control tower asked a few seconds later for the coast guard plane to move to a stopping point, away from the track.

But according to a coast guard official mentioned by NHK, the surviving pilot of the Bombardier claimed just after the accident to have obtained permission to take off.

A team of experts from the French Bureau of Investigation and Analysis for Civil Aviation (BEA), as well as British and Canadian experts, will look into the causes of what could have been one of the worst air disasters Of the history.

Airbus also announced that it would send a “technical assistance” team to help the investigation by the Japanese Transportation Safety Board.


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