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JAL flight returns to Narita after bomb threat demanding release of Aum guru

33 Comments

A Japan Airlines plane heading to the U.S. with 265 passengers and crew on board was recalled Wednesday due to a bomb threat which reportedly demanded the release of a notorious criminal, the airline said Thursday.

The carrier said it received an email at 1:30 p.m. that warned a bomb was planted inside the plane after the Boeing 777 left for New York at 11:50 Wednesday morning.

Jiji Press news agency reported Thursday that the email demanded the release of Shoko Asahara, the mastermind behind the 1995 Tokyo subway gas attacks, which killed 13 and injured thousands.

The plane was ordered back to Narita International Airport at 3:10 p.m. as it was flying over the Aleutian island chain in the north Pacific, a company official said. It arrived back at Narita at around 8 p.m. Wednesday.

"The plane had departed after security checks but we decided to call it back after consultations with the police," he added.

A thorough search of the plane turned up no explosive device, the official added without elaborating.

All 247 passengers and 18 crew and departed for New York on another plane, the official said.

Quoting investigators, Jiji Press said the email demanded the release of Asahara, 57, who was sentenced to death along with 12 other members of the Aum Supreme Truth cult after they released deadly nerve gas into the Japanese capital's subway system.

In recent months, Japanese authorities arrested the last two remaining suspects from the cult who had been on the run since the deadly attacks.

© (C) 2012 AFP

©2020 GPlusMedia Inc.

33 Comments
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The airline had no choice but recall the plane... they acted properly. I hope whoever did this, however, is put in a cell where they throw away the key, even if no bomb is found. Acts that destabilize society, the transportation system, the water or food supply ... these people are terrorists, even if they don't use bombs.

11 ( +12 / -1 )

I hope whoever is responsible is apprehended and punished severely. No doubt JAL will sue for damages.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

they can track the IP address of email. but Im afraid they cant catch the sender.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

It took them two hours to make a decision to contact the captain!

4 ( +4 / -0 )

What a colossal waste of time and money for all involved. Where I come from a conviction for false information and threats involving aircraft carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison, a $250,000 fine, or both. Let's hope Japan is just as harsh and that they find this lunatic.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Two hours to contact the captain??? I wonder if there was someplace closer that the plane could have set down instead of returning to Japan. Alaska or Canada would have been closer I think. So, it took 6 1/2hours to get the plane on the ground from the time they recieved the threat. Ridiculous.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

They sat there twiddling their thumbs for nearly 2 hours before doing anything, now imagine the headline if there really was a bomb on board and it went of while these dick heads sat there doing nothing, the plane was in the air for nealry 8 hours , jees this lot need a rocket in their ear for this.

No i hope the retard that made the bomb threat gets found and punished severly for this.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

No = Now

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

I just can imagine what kind of excuses they gave to the passengers on that plane. I don't think they can tell the true to avoid panic.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

I hope the PIC (pilot in command) is hopping mad, it was his aircraft and the safety of everyone on board falls upon him(her). If he had been notified right away that aircraft would have been in the air for at least three hours less. And why all the way back to Tokyo? A B777 doesn't require a super large airport, surely you have ones on the north end of your country that would be acceptable.

But all of your are correct, the perpetrator of this needs to be locked away for a very long time, if he has any resources they now belong to JAL as this stunt will have cost about $100K.

And the passengers must be told the truth for the return and delay.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Lilic - I was thinking the same thing. What do they tell the passengers in this situation?

3 ( +3 / -0 )

I sincerely hope there are no copy cat idiots out there. I'm worried that certain unscrupulous people will realize it only takes an anonymous email to cause havoc with flight plans. I don't want to be hauled all the way back to Japan when I'm halfway to Chicago next week.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

I believe there are many people spoiled by TV/Hollywood etc research "THE CSI EFFECT". In real life, things don't happen as fast as you see on TV and in the movies. You cant just pick up the phone and speak with any airline captain anywhere in the world. Depending on where the aircraft's position, it could of been in a dead zone in aircraft communications, in which case other aircraft would of needed to relay radio messages to the aircraft to ATC and it depends on which ATC they were speaking too. Roughly 3.5 hours into a flight flying somewhere between Japan and Alaska could very well put it in this situation.

Northwest Flight 85 which suffered a lower rudder failure was flying in this particular region, the crew of NW85 attempted to contact ATC with an emergency but could not get radio messages through, NW85 had to relay messages after contacting another NW aircraft which then contacted ATC of it's situation.

In addition, we don't know the nature of the bomb threat. Maybe it was specific in stating that the aircraft must return to Japan or staying landing elsewhere would endanger the passengers even more. We just don't know.

5 ( +6 / -1 )

Just by doing some quick math, it was about 4 hours after the threat that the pilot was notifiec. Another 5 hours to have the plane turn around and make it to Narita. That's a total of 9 hours in the air. The flight from NRT to SEA is 9 hours. Assuming that the plane was flying a great circle route to NYC, it probably would have been faster for them to divert to Seattle than fly back over open ocean to NRT.

I can see some reason why there may have been a delay on the JAL authorites, since I am sure that they get plenty of hazes. But 2 hours is a bit excessive. One would want JAL to have a culture of not being afraid to report something like this and not worrying about what will happen if it is false and who will accept blame.

-2 ( +3 / -5 )

I think some ppl have misread the article.

I read:

They received the mail 2 hrs after the plane took off, a take-off that occurred at 11:50.

So they got the mail at about 2pm, thot about it's veracity and risk for an hour, then called the flight back at about 3. Since tbhe mail had demands, they knew that the bomb wouldn't go off right away, as the potential bombers wanted to get something out of it.

As far as going back to Narita vs Seattle and other options I have no idea of the time/ distance, not the protocol for bombs.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

"not the protocol" = NOR the protocol

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Badge213 I'd like to say that NWA 85 had to be an exception for communications. Transoceanic aircraft operating to and from the U.S. are required to have an old fashioned, but reliable, Short Wave transceiver, two actually. They operate each one on a different wave length to provide uninterrupted communications. But as with any electrical device severe solar activity can disrupt it. I will speculate that since NWA85 had severe rudder damage, that the short-wave antennas may have been damaged.

To me it is irresponsible that the Pilot in Command was not notified as soon as possible. As for the other stuff, yes too many unknowns in the article.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

The flight from NRT to SEA is 9 hours. Assuming that the plane was flying a great circle route to NYC, it probably would have been faster for them to divert to Seattle than fly back over open ocean to NRT.

Are you sure that a foreign airliner with a bomb on board would be given permission to enter (or remain in) American airspace?

As for email threats, it is unlikely that they are given too much credibility. Any idiot can send one, and many idiots no doubt have.

-5 ( +2 / -7 )

For safety sake of all, land at the closest airport that can handle the aircraft safely, then sort it out.... dumb to return to Japan.... All airports anywhere in the world are required to give priority to any aircraft in distress.

-2 ( +1 / -3 )

For safety sake of all, land at the closest airport that can handle the aircraft safely, then sort it out.... dumb to return to Japan.

Do you believe that every email received with a threat like this should be acted on? We don't know for sure how many email threats are sent to airlines - do they all make the newspapers? Unlikely. We don't even know how quickly they are read after being received - it's going to depend where and who it was sent to, and the circumstances on the day. Many of us don't read our email immediately we receive it - either at work or at home.

If we create the conditions where every single mail threat must be acted upon immediately and without fail by ordering an emergency landing, we would make it very easy for catastrophic disruption of air travel. Aviation in some regions is already strained beyond the bounds of commonsense by post-9/11 security measures. Something like this could push it over the edge, if every crackpot with a grudge could make themselves heard in this way. And it may all be based on not a single aircraft being harmed so far following an email threat. There is simply no way in aviation security to cover all possible dangers - so they normally base their measures on established patterns of terrorist and hijacker behaviour.

And in the past, the pattern has been that people who get bombs onto planes are intent on blowing them up, not on sending warnings about them using the laziest means of communication known to man.

-5 ( +1 / -6 )

For me the obvious consequence would be to carry out the death sentence for the Aum leader as fast as possible. Shall we really risk more threats to innocent passengers?

0 ( +0 / -0 )

A terrorist threat or actual attack of this nature not only causes anxiety and panic among the people, but it also obstructs business operations and decreases possible tax-generating revenues, which erodes the basic foundations of government institutions, (whether it is a democracy, socialism, communism, dictatorship, etc). It should be considered sabotage against the government, and as such, an act of high treason, punishable with life in prison or even death when there has actually been an incident with human casualties. No mercy for these "Kurumis".

0 ( +1 / -1 )

It was mentioned in Japanese reports that police suspect it was a prankster who has nothing to do with AUM at all and was just trying to cause trouble. Not that it should make a threat any less serious. I guess it's to be expected here in the summer. People go bonkers from the heat.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Just by doing some quick math, it was about 4 hours after the threat that the pilot was notifiec.

Please do some recalculations, your math is incorrect:

1:30pm email received. 3:10pm plane ordered to return.

= 1hr 40minutes not 4 hours.

What's not clear is when or how the pilots were notified, but even looking at the math, 1hr 40minutes you're going from some clerk reading his email through the company through the police and governmental officials to the airline pilot who's waiting instructions on what to do, where to land etc. It's really not like the movies where someone picks up the phone and something happens almost instantaneous.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Really! What's to stop people from emailing after each and every flight and post the same message?

-4 ( +1 / -5 )

1:30pm email received. 3:10pm plane ordered to return.

@ Badge213: Read the article closely. The plane had left at 11:50. It was in the air for almost 2 hours before the email was received.

-4 ( +1 / -5 )

I did read the article, please read what I actually wrote now. I said the message was received at 1:30 and the aircraft turned around at 3:10, with an elapse time of 1hr 40minutes. I was responding to your post:

Just by doing some quick math, it was about 4 hours after the threat that the pilot was notifiec.

4 hours is incorrect because the message was received at 1:30pm NOT at 11:30am.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Based on your 4 hour estimate, you mean the message was received at 11:50am, but it wasn't, it was received at 1:30pm.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

In reality, if someone has a bomb and wants to blow something up, they usually don't give advanced warnings. But you still have to take every threat seriously.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

@sn00z3: Sending email can easily be spoofed. It is commonly assumed that an email is some sort of legal entity, tied to an individual, but it is not. In reality, email is much like a postcard. You can drop it off at any mailbox you like and you can put any return address on it that you like, even invalid ones. Along the way anyone can read the contents and when it finally arrives in your mailbox, the server there can read everything too.

IP addresses aren't much better. Sure, they will know what the email headers claim, but those don't have to be the truth either. It isn't very hard to hop from server-to-server-to-server across multiple countries. Just the last server connecting to the JAL email server would be logged and if that was from an unfriendly nation or an email relay service that doesn't retain records, following it back to the real sender could be impossible.

OTOH, an average person sending any threats through email would be caught quickly. Someone with a little network knowledge could easily make the tracking much, much harder.

Nothing about standard email is secure and most parts of emails are just "suggestions" unless other non-trivial steps are taken to ensure the sender really is who they claim to be. The commonly used fields like SUBJECT, TO, FROM and many uncommon fields can contain anything you or I want to type in. Just for fun, try it.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I did read the article, please read what I actually wrote now. I said the message was received at 1:30 and the aircraft turned around at 3:10, with an elapse time of 1hr 40minutes. I was responding to your post:

@ Badge213: The article states:

after the Boeing 777 left for New York at 11:50 Wednesday morning.

The email was received at 1:30 which was 1 hour and 40 minutes after the plane was in the air. The plane was notified at 3:10, which was 1 hour and 40 minutes later. By that time, the plane had been in the air for a total of 3 hours and 20 minutes.

as it was flying over the Aleutian island chain in the north Pacific, a company official said. It arrived back at Narita at around 8 p.m. Wednesday.

It was flying over the Aleutians, and there is an Air Force Base in Alaska where the plane could have landed vice flying back over open ocean for another 5 hours back to Narita over open ocean. If there had been a bomb onboard and it exploded, any survivors would have a better chance if the plane was able to crash land on the land mass of Alaska vice the open ocean. Also, I am sure that NORAD (North American Air Defence Command) would have had escorts with the aircraft monitoring just in case it went down to pinpoint the exact location.

I do hope they find this idot who did this. I imagine it is probably some Bozo who will say "he was upset because he missed the flight" and only did it because he was angry.

-4 ( +0 / -4 )

The flight left at 11:50 am and arrived back at 8 pm, spending 8 hours ten minutes in the air. To fly from Tokyo to Anchorage takes about 7 hours so it would have been better/safer to land there.

Maybe someone from JAL can explain why they chose to keep the aeroplane in the air longer than necessary and why they chose to land it in Tokyo instead of Sapporo? Of course, they won't explain anything because their decision making process has no logic.

-2 ( +1 / -3 )

Very good decision. But I guess there will be more of those kind of threats by the AUM followers until they execute Asahara. Execute him now with his own Sarin Gas ASAP and their will be no more threat.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

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