More than two weeks after JAL Flight 516 from New Chitose airport struck a Japan Coast Guard plane on Haneda airport Runway C and burst into flames, people are still talking about the "miracle" that enabled 379 passengers and crew members to evacuate without a single fatality.
These repercussions were quickly felt, perhaps in an unanticipatedly positive manner: When the Tokyo stock market opened for trading on January 4, JAL shares rose by 0.8% over the year end's closing quotation.
Flash (Jan 23) did some more digging.
According to air transport specialist Kazuo Hideshima, the miracle can be credited to "the 5 items of the STS," the five things that must absolutely be confirmed during takeoffs and landings. These are: 1) impact prevention position; 2) control to prevent passengers from panicking; 3) decision on whether or not to evacuate; 4) designation of the evacuation routes; and 5) directing the evacuation.
"The STS stands for 'silent thirty seconds,'" Hideshima continued. "During that time span, the routes of evacuation and their order must be decided precisely. I suppose in the case of the evacuation this time things went well because they adhered to these fundamentals."
Former JAL pilot Hiroshi Sugie tells Flash that the quality of the company's training is second to none.
"JAL's training and facilities for emergency evacuation are considerably above those of other carriers," he boasted. "Once a year, there's a rule that pilots and cabin attendants must attend a stringent training course or they won't qualify to fly. Many of the instructors are regarded as 'demon teachers' due to their arduous approach."
In its earlier incarnation as the national carrier, JAL was often disparaged for its privileged treatment by "Oyakata Hinomaru" -- the Japanese equivalent of Uncle Sam -- that insulated it from close oversight and financial problems. Then after the Lehman Shock of 2008, the company had a close brush with insolvency and actually turned away several offers of mergers with U.S. carriers, which would have been regarded as humiliating.
In January 2010, Kyocera Corporation founder Kazuo Inamori was appointed as CEO, and was entrusted with overhauling the company. The "JAL Philosophy" that Inamori engendered adhered to the nurturing principle that "Competence will always progress."
"JAL became a company that made considerable investments in time and money for staff training," said journalist Norifumi Mizogami. "At ordinary companies, outlays for staff training are about ¥30,000 per person. In fiscal 2018, JAL spent ¥470,000 per person."
Due to the COVID pandemic, however, outlays for training declined to ¥110,000.
With reduced passenger demand from 2020, the company farmed out cabin attendants to other jobs, and also kept them busy training. Compared with 71 hours in 2018, training hours were boosted to 260 hours in 2022.
"Under difficult business conditions, they cut expenditures but didn't reduce the training," Mizogami pointed out.
During the business downturn, some cabin attendants were seconded to work at Nojima retail home electronics stores. It proved a mutually beneficial experience.
"Some shops actually received thank-you letters from customers pleased by their solicitous treatment."
Following the collision at Haneda on Jan 2, the cabin attendants weren't able to communicate with the pilots, so they instructed the passengers using handheld megaphones. Air travel specialist Kotaro Toriumi believes their potential may have very well been enhanced by the work they performed outside the company at sales jobs.
"I inquired to a call center where the JAL cabin attendants had been dispatched, and was pleased to have been informed that they'd continued to stick to the manual, while proposing the best options to customers," Toriumi told the magazine. "I suppose that's because while airborne they often received irregular requests.
"They are real pros in terms of dealing with customers," he enthused.© Japan Today