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Air traffic communication is lost Worrying authorities; JAL re-inspected after alarming Fukuoka case


The Yomiuri Shimbun
Inspectors from the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism entered a Japan Airlines building in Ota Ward, Tokyo on Friday.

An extraordinary on-site inspection by the Ministry of Transportation of a Japan Airlines facility, just a short time after the last such inspection, resulted from incidents involving JAL that occurred one after the other.

The Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism on Friday carried out the second extraordinary on-site inspection in just over three months under the Civil Aviation Act.

The ministry was particularly concerned about an incident in which a JAL aircraft crossed a stop line at Fukuoka Airport on May 10.

The ministry wants to tackle the problems faced by both air traffic control and pilots.

Meanwhile, the ministry will likely be forced to re-examine its measures to prevent a recurrence of collisions like the one that occurred at Haneda Airport in January.

A senior ministry official with extensive aviation experience expressed growing concerns about communication problems between pilots and air traffic control authorities, as seen in the case of JAL Flight 312 at Fukuoka Airport.

“It is outrageous that both JAL and the air traffic control authorities lack basic operations. Apart from the severity of the outcome, a series of mistakes were made that are even more serious than those at Haneda Airport,” the official said.

JAL Flight 312 departed the tarmac on the afternoon of May 10 and was en route to the southern end of the runway via a taxiway. En route, the aircraft crossed the stop line at taxiway E6, which leads to the runway.

When an air traffic controller noticed that the JAL aircraft was crossing the stop line, he ordered a J-Air aircraft that had already started its take-off to make an emergency stop on the runway approximately 500 meters before taxiway E6.

When Flight 312, which was ordered to stop at about the same time, came to a complete stop, part of the plane had gone onto the runway.

Three errors have been identified that are considered more serious than those in the fatal accident at Haneda Airport.

First, there was a misunderstanding where the air traffic controller wanted to instruct the pilots to ‘stop short of the runway’, but all three JAL pilots mistakenly thought they had been cleared to enter the runway.

Second, the misunderstanding could have been avoided if the pilots had repeated the instructions and the controller had confirmed that they had been repeated. However, both sides failed to do so and confirmed instructions for a stop just short of the runway.

Third, the pilots incorrectly assumed that they were cleared to enter the runway, even though the control authorities did not use the standard terminology that would have cleared Flight 312 to enter the runway.

The problems at Fukuoka airport were not considered an “aviation accident” or a “serious incident” leading to an accident – terms defined in the law – because the air traffic control team was able to detect that Flight 312 had crossed the stop line.

Nevertheless, Minister of Lands, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism Tetsuo Saito stated that the ministry was taking this matter “very seriously” on Friday, as these errors were points that should have been thoroughly addressed in the emergency measures taken following the accident at Haneda Airport .

“If no measures are taken, another serious accident will eventually occur,” the senior ministry official said.

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