2001 Japan Airlines mid-air incident

2001 Japan Airlines mid-air incident
2001 Japan Airlines mid-air incident
(JAL 907 and JAL 958)

Artist's conception of JA8904 (below) diving under JA8546 (above). The planes were less than 100 meters from each other at the moment of the near miss.
Accident summary
Date January 31, 2001 (2001-01-31)
Type Near miss, ATC error
Site near Yaizu, Shizuoka, Japan
Total injuries 99 (9 serious)
Total fatalities 0
Total survivors 677 (all)
First aircraft
Type Boeing 747-446D
Operator Japan Airlines
Tail number JA8904[1]
Flight origin Tokyo Int'l Airport
Destination Naha Int'l Airport, Okinawa
Passengers 411
Crew 16
Injuries 99 (9 serious)
Survivors 427 (all)
Second aircraft
Type Douglas DC-10-40D
Operator Japan Airlines
Tail number JA8546[1]
Flight origin Gimhae International Airport
Busan, South Korea
Destination Narita International Airport
Passengers 237
Crew 13
Injuries 0
Survivors 250 (all)
A Japan Airlines 747-400, similar to this Japan Airlines that nearly collided with JA8546.
A Japan Airlines Douglas DC-10-40, similar to this Japan Airlines Douglas DC-10-40D, nearly collided with JA8904.

On Wednesday, January 31, 2001, Japan Airlines Flight 907, using a Boeing 747-446 Domestic bound from Tokyo International Airport (Haneda Airport) in Ōta, Tokyo, Japan to Naha International Airport in Naha, Okinawa, Japan and Japan Airlines Flight 958, using a Douglas DC-10-40D bound from Gimhae International Airport in Busan, South Korea to Narita International Airport in Narita, Chiba Prefecture, Japan, nearly collided over the Suruga Bay near Yaizu, Shizuoka Prefecture due to human error.


Flight information

Japan Airlines Flight 907, registration JA8904, was a 747-446 Domestic with 411 passengers and 16 crew making a domestic flight from Tokyo Haneda International Airport to Naha Airport. Japan Airlines Flight 958, registration JA8546, was a McDonnell Douglas DC-10-40 with 237 passengers and 13 crew bound from Gimhae International Airport to Narita International Airport.[2] Flight 907, using an aircraft registered as "JA8904," left Haneda at 3:36 PM.

According to the flight plan, JAL907 and JAL958 would pass each other while 2,000 feet apart.[3]

Mid-air incident

JA8904's TCAS sounded 20 minutes after its departure[3] as the jet climbed towards 39,000 feet. The DC-10, JA8546, cruised at 37,000 feet.[2]

The mid-air incident occurred as flight attendants began to serve drinks onboard Flight 907.[4]

The two planes were on a collision course towards each other. The pilots of both planes had received conflicting instructions from their TCAS and the flight controller at the Tokyo Area Control Center in Tokorozawa, Saitama Prefecture. Flight 907, headed by 40-year-old pilot Makoto Watanabe (渡辺 誠 Watanabe Makoto?), followed an order to descend issued by the flight controller while Flight 958, headed by pilot Tatsuyuki Akazawa (赤沢 達幸 Akazawa Tatsuyuki?), descended as instructed by the TCAS, meaning that both planes remained on a collision course. The trainee for the aerospace sector, 26-year-old[5] Hideki Hachitani (蜂谷 秀樹 Hachitani Hideki?),[6] handled ten other flights at the time of the near miss. Hachitani intended to tell Flight 958 to descend. Instead, at 3:54 p.m, he told Flight 907 to descend. When the trainee noticed that JAL 958 cruised at a level altitude instead of descending, the trainee asked JAL 958 to turn right; the message did not get through to the JAL 958 pilot. The trainee's supervisor, Yasuko Momii (籾井 康子 Momii Yasuko?),[7] ordered "JAL 957" to climb, intending to tell JAL 907 to climb. There was no "JAL 957" in the sky.[2]

Watanabe avoided disaster when he abruptly forced the aircraft to dive based on a visual judgment.[5] The aircraft missed each other by less than 100 meters.[8] Watanabe said that the aircraft were 35 feet apart.[9] An unidentified passenger told NHK "I have never seen a plane fly so close. I thought we were going to crash." Alex Turner, a passenger on Flight 907 and a student at Kadena High School, a school for children with parents stationed at Kadena Air Base in Okinawa Prefecture, estimated that the avoidance maneuver lasted for two seconds.[3]

Seven passengers and two crew members of the 747 sustained serious injuries; additionally, 81 passengers and 10 crew members reported minor injuries. Some unbelted passengers, flight attendants, and drink carts hit the ceiling, dislodging some ceiling tiles. [4] The maneuver threw one boy across four rows of seats.[3] Most of the injuries to occupants consisted of bruising. The maneuvers broke the leg of a 54-year-old woman.[3][10][11] In addition, a drink cart spilled, scalding some passengers. No passengers on the DC-10 sustained injuries.[12] Flight 907, with the 747's cabin bearing minor damage, returned to Haneda, landing at 4:45 PM.

Thirteen students at Kadena High School had boarded Flight 907 after returning from a school-sanctioned ROTC competition.[9] Two students from Michigan, United States, 15-year-old Meggan Wesche and 14-year-old Allison Ambrose, sustained some minor injuries and became hospitalized for a short time. Wesche, who had slipped out of her seat during the descent and became disoriented from the incident, received an X-ray and other examinations at Toho University Hospital. She said that her body felt like "the plane is going down again" even though she was on land. The following day the students left on another Japan Airlines flight and arrived in Okinawa.[3][4]


By 18:00 on February 1 eight Flight 907 passengers remained hospitalized while 22 injured passengers had been released. Two passengers remained hospitalized at Kamata General Hospital (蒲田総合病院 Kamata Sōgō Byōin?). Two passengers remained hospitalized at Ichikawa No. 2 Hospital (市川第2病院 Ichikawa Daini Byōin?). In addition the following hospitals each had one passenger remaining: Takano Hospital (タカノ病院 Takano Byōin?), Kitasato University, Horinaka Hospital (堀中病院 Horinaka Byōin?), and Tokyo Rosai Hospital (東京労災病院 Tōkyō Rōsai Byōin?).[13] All injured passengers recovered.

JAL sent apology letters to the passengers on the 747; injured passengers directly received messages, and uninjured passengers received messages via the mail.[14]

The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) did not take action based on the occurrence of the near-miss.[15] Japanese authorities called for measures that would prevent similar accidents from happening, but ICAO did not further investigate the incident until after the 2002 Überlingen mid-air collision. The ICAO decided to fulfill Japan's request 18 months after the Japan Airlines incident.[8]

Criminal investigation and trial

Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department and the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport investigated the incident.[9]

In May 2003 Tokyo police filed an investigative report concerning Hideki Hachitani, Yasuko Momii, and Makoto Watanabe, suspecting them of professional negligence. In March 2004 prosecutors indicted Hachitani and Momii for professional negligence.[16]

Hachitani, then 30 years old, and Momii, then 35 years old, pleaded not guilty to the charges at Tokyo District Court in 2004.[17] During the same year the lawyer for Hachitani and Momii said that the pilots of the aircraft bore the responsibility for the near miss.[18]

By November 16, 2005, 12 trials had been held since the initial hearing on September 9, 2004. The prosecution argued that the two defendants neglected to provide proper separation for the two aircraft, the instructions issued were inappropriate, and that the supervisor failed to correct the trainee. The defense argued that the lack of separation would not immediately have led to a near miss, that the instructions issued were appropriate, that the TCAS procedure was not proper, and that the Computer Navigation Fix (CNF) had faulty data.[19]

In 2006 prosecutors asked for Hachitani, then 31, to be sentenced to one year in prison and for Momii, then 37, to be sentenced to one and one half years.[20] On March 20, 2006 the court ruled that Hachitani and Momii were not guilty of the charge.[6][21][22] The court stated that Hachitani could not have foreseen the accident and that the mixup of the flight numbers did not have a causal relationship with the accident. Hisaharu Yasui, the presiding judge, said that prosecuting controllers and pilots would be "unsuitable" in this case.[23] The Tokyo District Public Prosecutor's Office filed an appeal with the Tokyo High Court on March 31. During the same year the Japanese government agreed to pay Japan Airlines and Tokio Marine & Nichido Fire Insurance a total of 82.4 million yen to compensate for the near miss.[24]

On April 11, 2008, on appeal, a higher court overturned the decision and found Hachitani and Momii guilty. The presiding judge, Masaharu Suda (須田賢 Suda Masaharu?), sentenced Hachitani, then 33, to confinement for one year, and Momii, then 39, for one year and six months. Both were placed on probation.[25][26][27] Each of the two sentences was suspended for three years.[22] Suda described the mixing of the flight numbers as a "rudimentary error."[16] The lawyers representing the controllers planned to file appeals.[28]


  1. ^ a b "Accident Investigation to a Near Mid-Air Collision"
  2. ^ a b c "Blame pinned on air traffic controllers." Japan Times. Saturday February 3, 2001. Retrieved on December 11, 2009.
  3. ^ a b c d e f Childs, Jan Wesner. "Kadena High students shaken by near-miss during flight over Japan." Stars and Stripes. Friday February 2, 2001. Retrieved on December 11, 2009.[dead link]
  4. ^ a b c "JAL planes almost collide," Yomiuri Shimbun. Retrieved on December 11, 2009.
  5. ^ a b "Controllers blamed for near-miss." BBC. Friday February 2, 2001. Retrieved on December 11, 2009.
  6. ^ a b "Court finds air traffic controllers not guilty over 2001 near miss." Kyodo World News Service.
  7. ^ "Court clears air controllers in near miss." Yomiuri Shimbun.[dead link]
  8. ^ a b "Deadly Crossroads," Mayday
  9. ^ a b c "Japanese police pursuing possibility of negligence in planes' near collision," The Associated Press[dead link]
  10. ^ "At least 35 airline passengers injured in near miss." Associated Press Writer.[dead link]
  11. ^ "Close Call For JAL Jets." CBS News. January 31, 2001. Retrieved on December 11, 2009.
  12. ^ "Signals blamed for near collision." BBC. Thursday February 1, 2001. Retrieved on December 11, 2009.
  13. ^ "JL907便事故について" (Japanese). Japan Airlines. Retrieved on December 25, 2008.
  14. ^ "Japan Airlines apologises to near-miss victims." Airline Industry Information. February 9, 2001. Retrieved on December 11, 2009.
  15. ^ "report outline". International Civil Aviation Organization. Archived from the original on September 29, 2007. http://web.archive.org/web/20070929083939/http://www.icao.int/ICDB/HTML/English/Representative%20Bodies/Air%20Navigation%20Commission/Working%20Papers%20by%20Year/2002/AN.2002.WP.7760.EN/AN.2002.WP.7760.REP.EN.HTM. Retrieved 2007-01-22. 
  16. ^ a b "Not guilty verdict revoked, 2 air controllers given suspended sentences+." Associated Press. April 11, 2008. Retrieved on December 11, 2009.
  17. ^ "2 air controllers in 2001 JAL near-miss accident plead not guilty.." Japan Transportation Scan. September 9, 2004. Retrieved on December 11, 2009.
  18. ^ "2 air-traffic controllers blame JAL pilots for near-miss.." Asia Africa Intelligence Wire. September 10, 2004. Retrieved on December 11, 2009.
  19. ^ "REPORT OF THE JAPAN AIR TRAFFIC CONTROLLERS’ ASSOCIATIONS (JFATCA) To The 22nd IFATCA Asia Pacific Regional Meeting, Fukuoka, Japan (16-18 November 2005)." Air Traffic Control Association Japan. Retrieved July 17, 2008.[dead link]
  20. ^ "Air traffic controllers face prison terms over 2001 near miss.." Japan Transportation Scan.
  21. ^ "Court finds air traffic controllers not guilty over 2001 near miss." Japan Today.
  22. ^ a b "Not guilty verdict revoked, 2 air controllers given suspended sentences+." Kyodo News.[dead link]
  23. ^ "‘N’ FORMATION." Official Magazine of the New Zealand Air Line Pilots’ Association. Issue 7. March 2006. Retrieved on December 11, 2009.
  24. ^ "State to pay for '01 JAL near miss." The Japan Times. Saturday April 1, 2006. Retrieved on December 11, 2009.
  25. ^ 日航機ニアミス事故 逆転有罪 NHK ニュース.
  26. ^ "http://www.jiji.com/jc/c?g=soc&k=2008041100620 時事ドットコム:管制官に逆転有罪=誤指示との因果関係認める-日航機ニアミス事故・東京高裁" Jiji Press'.' Retrieved April 11, 2008.
  27. ^ "Not guilty verdict revoked, 2 air controllers given suspended." AOL News.[dead link]
  28. ^ "High court finds air traffic controllers guilty over JAL near miss accident." Mainichi Daily News.[dead link]

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