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Transcripts of fatal aircraft collision reveal coast guard plane not cleared for take-off

73 Comments
By FOSTER KLUG and MARI YAMAGUCHI

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73 Comments
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What a nightmare. I just don’t understand how the pilot could have felt secure enough to taxi onto the runway of such a busy airport without being given explicit instructions to do so, perceived priority or not.

4 ( +14 / -10 )

Hats off to the crew members who have laid down their lives for saving the passengers! I love them, they are the model workers for the inudstry and us commoners. I wish their love ones at their homes also get enough of company, government and public support for their lives to be comfortable. Salute to the martyr-savious!

9 ( +20 / -11 )

Another facts emerge based on these articles that critical Stop Bar Lighting were unserviceable for a series of taxiway to runway junction.

https://abcnews.go.com/International/japan-airlines-flight-crew-acknowledged-repeated-permission-land/story?id=106066266

https://www.airlineratings.com/news/why-was-the-japanese-coast-guard-plane-on-the-runway/

10 ( +12 / -2 )

Well, there it is. Sadly, it seems the accident is pointing to human error. Miscommunication and pilot distraction are becoming more and more common in air accidents, and the facts being released from this one seems to point to this as the cause of the disaster.

More and more flights, into already incredibly busy airports still using 1970's era ground radar equipment, combined with over-worked pilots, control tower personnel, and flight crews have caused accidents in the past.

This problem is not unique in any way to Japan: There were a record number of "close calls" in and around American airports between commercial air traffic in 2023.

JAL Flight 516's entire flight crew are the heroes of the day, turning a possible catastrophe into a survivable, though still totemo kanashi, disaster. applause and praise!

12 ( +17 / -5 )

What a shocking scene, shown in the photo! When I saw the crashed airplane on the TV screen, a small fire seems to have just started in the rear of the passenger cabin. But fire engines kept hosing water on the fuselage of the aircraft from outside only. Wasn't there any way to extinguish the fire inside the cabin?

-12 ( +2 / -14 )

Two non-native-english speakers forced to communicate in English. Wouldn't surprise me that something was misheard.

7 ( +15 / -8 )

Gross professional negligence, that's how.

There's also the issue of the some of the lights used to delineate the end of the taxiway and runway were apparently malfunctioning.

In a further development, publicly available records appeared to suggest that out-of-service warning lights – designed to stop pilots from erroneously taxiing onto the runway – could have been another factor in the crash.

https://edition.cnn.com/2024/01/03/asia/japan-plane-crash-transcript-intl/index.html

7 ( +7 / -0 )

And the one responsible was the only one to survive the smaller craft crash.

-14 ( +2 / -16 )

This is not a copy of the Transcript.

This still does not tell you WHAT was said by either the Air Traffic Controller and how the Pilot responded

11 ( +12 / -1 )

I thought that JAL pilot or JCG pilot misheard the instruction from air-traffic controller. It looks like JCG pilot misunderstood the instruction. JCG pilot should have prepared to take off OUTSIDE the runway.

-3 ( +2 / -5 )

Sounds about the same kind of logic used by all these local people who jump into the street without looking both ways.... "but! I have the right-a-way" still is not going to keep you from getting killed. I was taught to stop and look both ways before crossing even on one-way streets!

I am curious if JAL requires their pilots to do hands off approaches and if that contributed to this mishap.

Something does not sit right in my mind between the time the CG aircraft broke the hold position line, to the time/location point of impact, and the time/distance covered by the JAL aircraft.

(Before it is asked, yes, I am an aviator)

3 ( +6 / -3 )

It's not the whole story. As others said, we don't know yet the plane was in the wrong place due to miscommunication, only that it didn't have permission to take off.

And the one responsible was the only one to survive the smaller craft crash.

6 ( +7 / -1 )

The coast guard plane said it was taxiing to the same runway, and the traffic control instructs it to proceed to the stop line ahead of the runway. The controller noted the coast guard gets the departure priority, and the pilot said he was moving to the stop line.

Seems clear

-2 ( +3 / -5 )

Coast guard plane somehow missed and went past the stop line

-5 ( +2 / -7 )

The JAL pilot almost certainly had lots of experience with the airport, the particular runways and air traffic control and have to guess that the Coast Guad pilot didn’t. Maybe had no experience with Haneda and/or little experience with commercial airports at all.

-2 ( +5 / -7 )

JAL staff did outstanding job.

about rest lets wait results from investigation.black boxes,communication transcripts etc.

0 ( +3 / -3 )

but! I have the right-a-way" still is not going to keep you from getting killed. I was taught to stop and look both ways before crossing even on one-way streets!

(Before it is asked, yes, I am an aviator)

We always made a habit of looking both ways and calling out "clear left" if you were in the left seat and "clear right" if you were in the right seat before entering the runway environment. See and avoid was always the rule. And if there was any doubt, you called ground to confirm clearance to the runway.

I am curious if JAL requires their pilots to do hands off approaches and if that contributed to this mishap.*

Shouldn't matter. Even when using "George", our derisive name for our crappy autopilots, we kept our eyes peeled and our hands close to the controls. George has tried to kill me a few times O_O

The matter of the ground lighting problem brings up one set of questions. Did the JCG crew know they were on an active runway? When you are flying away from your home base to a big busy commercial airport you are not familiar with and considering the amount of traffic and radio calls going on I could very easily see a crew from a comparatively quiet coast guard air station stumbling onto an active runway at someplace as insanely busy as Haneda.

The other thing I wonder about is did the JCG crew switch from ground frequency to tower and maybe miss a radio call from ground to hold short? That would not absolve the crew of anything but I could see the JCG crew thinking they had clearance to the runway in a rush to get into the air switching from ground to tower in anticipation of being cleared to take off. Stuff that you get used to doing at your possibly sleepy home base can get you killed or at least flight violated someplace busy like Haneda.

13 ( +15 / -2 )

You'd think the JAL pilot would have seen the CG plane and aborted. Alot of questions still unanswered! Very sad

-16 ( +1 / -17 )

You'd think the JAL pilot would have seen the CG plane and aborted. Alot of questions still unanswered! Very sad

Yes, maybe the plane was taken off autopilot. I would think an autopilot landing would understand something is wrong on the ground.

-12 ( +1 / -13 )

One possibility that I haven't seen mentioned: What if the CG pilot thought he was holding at the stop line clear of the runway? Is it possible that visibility was poor due to worn ground markings, poor lighting, obscured signage, etc?

The transcript kinda makes it seem like everybody was saying the right things. But, the CG craft was in the wrong place, nonetheless.

8 ( +10 / -2 )

I am remembering a night on my very first cross country flight as a new flight student. I was with an instructor and we were trying to make our approach and land at Langley AFB. But they had their runway lights turned down to a dim setting. Instead we lined up on NAS Norfolk. Look at a map. Their duty runways are roughly the same compass direction on opposites sides of a channel. Norfolk is south of Langley. Norfolk was lit up and we went for it. Both airfield rotating beacons had the split white light followed by a green light indicating a military airfield. D'oh. Head slap.

Finally Langley tower asked us where we were landing. We told them Langley as we scratched our heads why they asked. The told us we were lined up for Norfolk. My instructor asked them to flash their runway lights, which they did. Then our error was clear to us. Flying around unfamiliar places at night is hard work for even experienced pilots sometimes. For me as a noob it was a great lesson. Later in my career I would have my own white knucklers flying around hyper busy airspace like over Los Angeles where there is so much radio traffic you sometimes cannot even squeeze in your required position reports and the smog is so thick you can't see the ground below to navigate , far from the safe predictability of my home base. I feel real bad for that JCG crew.

16 ( +16 / -0 )

Yes, maybe the plane was taken off autopilot. I would think an autopilot landing would understand something is wrong on the ground.

Autopilot is not used during take off. It is however used for low visibility approaches at airports that have the equipment to allow for an auto coupled approach, where the autopilot received heading and altitude guidance from the ground so the airplane can be flown hands off almost to touch down. About all the pilot has to do is pull the throttles back and flare the landing. The auto coupled approach should deliver the airplane to a position centered over the runway with a couple of meters of altitude.

This was developed to allow airlines to operate in really bad weather but over time some airlines have started requiring its use for all landings for the sake of consistency, but this is controversial because pilots loose the skill to land the plane manually. If George calls it quits they are not prepared to do the job the old fashioned way.

10 ( +10 / -0 )

You'd think the JAL pilot would have seen the CG plane and aborted.

Amazing how many commercial pilots are contributing to this thread.

6 ( +13 / -7 )

From some of the comments I have seen here, it really seems like some folks think the first responders are supposed to be miracle workers. "Why didnt they do this? How come they couldn't do that?" I mean heck, if you are so great at telling people how to do their jobs, go do it yourself!

6 ( +9 / -3 )

 I feel real bad for that JCG crew.

And apparently only the pilot is alive. Thanks for sharing your experiences!

1 ( +2 / -1 )

The controller noted the coast guard gets the departure priority,

Was this communicated over the air? I could see how this might cause some confusion.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

I think that "Steve Goldun" makes an extremely valid point which may, or indeed may not, have some relevance. JCG aircraft are not familiar with Haneda which is a very large airport (one of the busiest in the world) and are possibly not used to communicating in English at their own bases. Perhaps someone who actually does know can verify?

Steve GoldunToday  09:00 am JST

The JAL pilot almost certainly had lots of experience with the airport, the particular runways and air traffic control and have to guess that the Coast Guad pilot didn’t. Maybe had no experience with Haneda and/or little experience with commercial airports at all.

0 ( +3 / -3 )

The injured Coast Guard pilot said he had been given permission to take off. Transcripts aren’t good enough. We need to hear the actual recorded exchanges between traffic control and the two planes.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Perhaps someone who actually does know can verify?

The JCG was based out of Haneda according to Japanese news.

If you look up the base/station, you can actually find photos of what appears to be that same dash 8 that crashed.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

Feel sorry for the cg pilot. On their way to help those hit by the earthquake and now he has to live with this

4 ( +4 / -0 )

I've heard the recorded excanges and they are too fuzzy static garbled for me to make out clearly.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Swedish passenger Anton Deibe, 17, told Swedish newspaper Aftonbladet. “The smoke in the cabin stung like hell.”

Yea, if not for the efficiency of JAL crew you would have ended up in hell !

-3 ( +2 / -5 )

Another facts emerge based on these articles that critical Stop Bar Lighting were unserviceable for a series of taxiway to runway junction.

This was noted in the NOTAMS that ALL pilots brief before every flight.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

The JAL pilot almost certainly had lots of experience with the airport, the particular runways and air traffic control and have to guess that the Coast Guad pilot didn’t. Maybe had no experience with Haneda and/or little experience with commercial airports at all.

This isn’t true. JCG is based out of Haneda. The monorail goes right by their base.

They fly in and out of Haneda all the time.

10 ( +10 / -0 )

You'd think the JAL pilot would have seen the CG plane and aborted. 

I was wondering this too. Even after being given clearance to land, the final decision is the flight crew’s who are supposed to mutually confirm that the runway is clear.

However, the Dash 9 lights are kind of faint and can be difficult to pick up.

In addition, aside from the JCG plane, you almost never see this aircraft type at HND.

This is an observation rather than an excuse or an accusation.

It could have been contributory.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

Two non-native-english speakers forced to communicate in English. Wouldn't surprise me that something was misheard.

This is the worldwide standard set down by ICAO that both ATC and the pilot both knew.

And in an international airport with many non-Japanese (you can insert any language here), using one worldwide standard for ATC communications is vastly superior.

In China, Chinese ATC routinely speaks Chinese to Chinese pilots which is fine for them. But mom-Chinese speakers have no clue what is happening.

Is the Chinese aircraft being instructed to climb? To descend? To hold? Nobody knows.

So English as the worldwide standard is vastly safer in the aggregate and this rule was known by all parties.

7 ( +8 / -1 )

The two sides had different understandings of their permission to use the runway.

Scary. That situation should never happen on any airport. I hope they fix the communication problem asap.

-3 ( +2 / -5 )

The CG flight was on the tower frequency being used for 34L, not 34R. Could be ground gave them the wrong frequency at handoff.

JAL was on the tower frequency for 34R - their landing runway.

The CG aircraft would know if they were on the active from runway lighting and heading, Desert Tortoise.

Still doesn't answer why TCAS wasn't activated by the CG aircraft upon entering 34R.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

The fact that ATC communication is in English may have played a role. It would have been extremely tough to hire people with coast guard pay who can both pilot and speak English as well as do all the coast guard duties

-5 ( +2 / -7 )

Hope everyone on that flight gets free upgrades for life

1 ( +2 / -1 )

A transcript of communication between traffic control and two aircraft that collided and burst into flames at Tokyo’s Haneda Airport showed that only the larger Japan Airlines passenger flight was given permission to use the runway where a coast guard plane was preparing for takeoff.

Key words... ONLY THE JAL flight was given permission to use the runway.

If correct, then surely the coastguard pilot will face some criminal charges for the deaths of his colleagues and damage to the planes. Being a pilot carries some heavy responsibilities.

-2 ( +1 / -3 )

@desert, s

control instructs it to proceed to the stop line ahead of the runway. The controller noted the coast guard gets the departure priority, and the pilot said he was moving to the stop line.

In you opinion, where can this go wrong? Proceed to the stop line, looking at heneda map there is plenty of room, is it fair to say that the stop line is before the main run way? And why did the cg line up on the runway, or even be on the run way?

What does priority mean? Does it mean clear to go when your ready? From YouTube funny transcript from various airport atc control say stop short or hold. Your clear for takeoff etc one alarming comment is there is a question over the stop lights weren't working, really? At an international airport, if this is the case shouldnt these have been fixed? Even if they weren't working were the pilots informed? The jcg and atc were on the same frequency as it's been recorded

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Is Haneda atc transmitting on various frequencies, or just one? The inbound aircraft, the jcg aircraft, will they hear each others transmission? If they do, the jcg should have known not to enter the runway.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

If the Stop Bar Lighting were unserviceable for a series of taxiway to runway junction, it could confuse someone new to the airport not knowing where to stop.

Will know facts much later.

Kudos to the crew and flight attendants for saving the lives of all on aboard.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

I didn't realize the JCG operated from Haneda. I was thinking perhaps the pilot flew there from an outlying JCG base at a far less busy airport.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

KKK, I believe it was around 18 minutes from what I've read.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

My post from a more recent JT report https://japantoday.com/category/national/JAL-pilots-unaware-of-fire-at-first-new-details-show about the planes evacuation time would shed light on some of the points raised here:

A_crossToday  01:54 pm JST

According to: https://www.msn.com/en-us/travel/news/the-art-of-the-plane-evacuation-how-airlines-empty-giant-jets-in-under-90-seconds/ar-AA1mpoFK 

All passengers ... need to be able to get off in an emergency in just 90 seconds – ... all the time the 379 passengers and crew on board Flight 516 had before the jet was engulfed by flames 

and the detailed infographics here:

https://www.usatoday.com/story/graphics/2024/01/02/japan-coast-guard-plane-crash-graphics/72083108007/ 

Flight JAL-516 ..... was making a normal landing on Runway C at about 5:47 p.m. local time when the crash occurred.

so when this report says: 

It took 18 minutes to evacuate the entire plane, with the pilot the last ... at 6:05 pm

it means 18 minutes was the total time from the airborne collision to completion of the evacuation, including actually landing and stopping the plane, and then shutting off the fuel tanks.

Sadly the JCG plane's crew died. They must have just become airborne as JAL-516 descended on top of them, so the Bombardier's above-fuselage wing and engines hit JAL-516's wing and engines at the two planes' combined speed. The JCG plane would have been fully loaded with fuel.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Cards fanToday  10:24 am JST

The JCG was based out of Haneda according to Japanese news.

JohnToday  10:59 am JST

JCG is based out of Haneda. The monorail goes right by their base.

Thank you.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

A transcript is all fine and dandy, but the cargo plane did not get a transcript, they were instructed by air traffic control in what I have heard is atrocious English that was very difficult to understand.

2 ( +5 / -3 )

Japanese air port control, I would say they speak fluent japanese, the Japanese coast guard, at a guess speak, spoke fluent japanese, Japanese incoming aircraft , potentially fluent japanese depending on the nationality of the pilot, so why use English?

-8 ( +0 / -8 )

Brian...

Japanese air port control, I would say they speak fluent japanese, the Japanese coast guard, at a guess speak, spoke fluent japanese, Japanese incoming aircraft , potentially fluent japanese depending on the nationality of the pilot, so why use English?

Because English is the official language of the air. Go to China, air control use English, in France, English and in Japan and everywhere else...ENGLISH.

5 ( +6 / -1 )

English is the International Standard for Air Traffic Control

6 ( +6 / -0 )

Thoughts and prayers go out to the families of the Coast Guard plane and the members who died in service of their country and to assist the distressed victims of the recent earthquake in Wajima.

0 ( +3 / -3 )

I wonder if the A350 uses a HUD during landing? In the dark conditions, and with the CG plane presenting its smallest profile with dim lights, I wonder if the HUD could have obscured it from the JAL pilots.

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

I'm surprised so much is still communicated by voice. Perhaps it would be an idea to introduce a sort of red/orange/green light digital code system that literally doesn't allow ground planes to go beyond certain points until the plane's system receives the necessary go-ahead codes, even if the pilot thinks it's okay.

Perhaps aircraft tech is way ahead of airport ground tech?

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

The controller noted the coast guard gets the departure priority, and the pilot said he was moving to the stop line.

I don't know much about aviation, but I would have assumed he (pilot of the the coast guard aircraft) would have informed ATC that he had arrived at the stop line and was awaiting permission to depart?

Something seems off to me hopefully the black box from the coast guard aircraft will be recovered intact. and we can hear any missing communications.

I am guessing it conveniently wont be.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Approaching or sitting on active runway is a dangerous place to be that's why all pilots involved should have the SA situational awareness on high alert during taxi, take off and landing!

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Looks like the JCG plane was neither approaching nor waiting near the runway, it had already run down the runway and taken off when it collided with the descending JAL- 516. They must have just become airborne as JAL-516 descended on top of them, so the Bombardier's above-fuselage wing and engines hit JAL-516's wing and engines with the force of the two planes' combined speed. The JCG plane would have been fully loaded with fuel.

English-language communication, and use of terms such as "take-off" being restricted to permission given or not, were established following the Tenerife collision in 1977. Reports suggest that the JCG pilot was instructed to wait at the runway entry, but was also informed he would be given priority. If the pilot thought that "cleared for take-off" and "given priority" were the same thing, that was a serious mistake on his part. If they were speaking in Japanese instead of English that was a serious breech of safety protocols. Lets hope the pilot survives and can give a full account of the accident.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

A_crossToday  01:51 am JST

Looks like the JCG plane was neither approaching nor waiting near the runway, it had already run down the runway and taken off when it collided with the descending JAL- 516

Come on, this is absolutely false.

Just stop.

The CG plane was moving onto the runway and turning to line up when struck by the JAL plane. The JAL aircraft was only seconds away from landing.

This is clearly obvious in the videos.

The CG flight should have easily seen the approaching JAL aircraft by clearing the right side visually before entering the active. The JAL aircraft was only 5-6 seconds from touching down.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Outstanding job by the crew AND passengers. If such a terrible thing were to happen to me I would want to be with Japanese crew and passengers

2 ( +2 / -0 )

It was true that the control tower didn't clear that plane for take-off. The one positive thing I saw from this was that crew were heroes, flying to save those who suffered from the quake. Great job by the JAL crew for great leading and the passengers for their discipline to follow the crew that lead to their safety. Things can be replaced but not lives.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

David Van Den BergJan. 4  08:00 am JST

Two non-native-english speakers forced to communicate in English. Wouldn't surprise me that something was misheard.

6( +14 / -8 )

Good point. In view of its worldwide use as a second language, I can understand its requirement for use at airports. However, it is obvious from this incident that that requirement could perhaps be relaxed where local pilots. whose spoken language is known to the traffic controllers, are involved, so that there is no possibility of the local ones misunderstanding, and the international ones who might hear it will know that the controller is not talking to them. Both will of course have to made fully aware that this is a standard worldwide practice.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

You converse in english over the the airways as all who is listening can hear what is being said. I tow aircraft for Qantas and hold a Cat 4 license (renewed every 2 yrs) that allows me to go anywhere on the airfields including runways and taxiways. I hear people talking about language, indeed language can be an issue but the rules and taxiway/runway markings are the same worldwide. So it should not be an issue. Pilots should always confirm any instructions together and confirm they both heard the same thing. I find Chinese pilots are the worst for misunderstanding and routine command. I hear ATC often have to repeat it 2 or 3 times before they understand what was ask of them to do. RIP to my fellow aviation workers who died only trying to help others.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Smithinjapan

you might find it is hard to understand ATC but when you hear it all the time you get used to how ATC speak. People ask me how do you understand what he just said I say it’s easy. My brain is tuned to it. Been listening to it for over 35years.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Even if Coast Guard aircraft was cleared for takeoff, narrative not permitted under any circumstance. Reality's it's 50:50, human error, either by CG pilot or Air Traffic.

You see, no matter actual factual truth, public's confidence would be destroyed if air traffic was at fault.

Media's 100% controlled by Govt. regarding this matter. If certain black boxes and voice recordings are 'never' found or never shared publicly, then doubt increases...

Easy to imagine CG pilot waiting on runway, for some 40 seconds, expecting AT instruction to authorize take-off.

Clearly more technology needed to reduce human error.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

It is unfortunate that the accident occurred, but the problem is that there should have been many systems in place to prevent accidents, but they are not functioning properly.

Was the year and version of the transponder correct?

It is also possible that the Japan Coast Guard aircraft entered the busy Haneda Airport using an outdated transponder.

Although it is part of the Northam system, it seems that the runway warning lights were already broken before the accident. For that reason, it is even possible that no one noticed the Coast Guard aircraft. There may have been human error on the part of the Japan Coast Guard captain, but if he skimped on the budget and didn't update the equipment or left a broken warning light unattended, then the problem was before the flight began.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

If the runway warning lights were not working, one would hope they'd be extra careful in the other manual checks and communication. However, it doesn't seem like this was the case. So I wonder, if this was really the result of a series of errors, what were those errors? All this talk about the swiss-cheese model, but I haven't seen any clear indication of what went wrong other than the pilots misunderstanding a single command and the aforementioned lights (which were known to be broken from the beginning). So that kind of worries me, but I'm also hopeful things will improve as a result of this tragedy.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

So tragic. May the souls of the coast guard members rest in peace.

The only good thing is that the passengers were at least saved that day from the brave actions of the cabin attendants.

The two sides had different understandings of their permission to use the runway.

Hopefully they can work out one understanding so that this entirely prerventable kind of thing doesn't happen again.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

In most accidents there are multiple failures that coincide.

I have heard reports that the CG aircraft mistakenly entered the runway and then sat for some time (30 or 45 seconds).

Even if the CG pilot had made the mistake, this should have been immediately detected by ATC (if time allowed) and then the JAL aircraft would have been instructed to go around.

I'm think it's likely it will be several mistakes that have coincided to cause this.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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