Transport Ministry Inspects JAL over Safety Issues; Multiple Problems Observed at Airports Since November (Update 1)

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

The transport ministry on Friday conducted an on-site inspection of a Japan Airlines facility following a series of safety problems that occurred from last November to this month.

The Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism Ministry took the action based on the Civil Aeronautics Law. The ministry’s inspectors will check JAL’s implementation of safety measures taken so far, while also strongly calling on the company to ensure that more effective measures are put in place.

On May 10, a JAL airplane erroneously crossed a stop line at Fukuoka Airport. Ahead of the inspection, Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism Minister Tetsuo Saito said at a press conference after a Cabinet meeting on Friday morning, “We take this incident very seriously, as both airline operators and air traffic control authorities have been called on to conduct basic operations thoroughly in response to the aircraft collision that occurred at Haneda Airport in January.”

According to a senior ministry official, the on-site inspection on Friday came after the ministry carried out a surprise inspection on the company in February. After the incident at Fukuoka Airport, the ministry had conducted a regular inspection on JAL, while the company was formulating measures to prevent a recurrence.

Four inspectors from the ministry’s Civil Aviation Bureau visited JAL Maintenance Center 1 near Haneda Airport in Tokyo at about 10:40 a.m. on Friday and launched an extraordinary inspection.

In addition to the company’s Corporate Safety and Security Department, the Flight Operations Department and the Engineering and Maintenance Department were among possible targets for the inspection. The inspectors were expected to check relevant documents and interview people in charge.

The head of JAL’s public relations group at Haneda Airport told reporters in front of the center: “The inspection is being conducted due to a series of incidents involving safety problems. We want to make efforts to restore trust in JAL based on the guidance from the authorities.”

Since November last year, JAL has been hit by a series of safety and operational problems, such as a flight cancellation caused by a captain who was deeply intoxicated, in addition to an erroneous runway entry and a crossing of a stop line at U.S. airports after miscommunications with air traffic control, as well as the crossing of a stop line at Fukuoka Airport.

JAL Engineering Co., a JAL subsidiary, was also found to have performed maintenance improperly and received a business improvement recommendation, a form of administrative admonition, in December last year.

Furthermore, the wings of two JAL airplanes — which were being moved by towing vehicles of JAL Ground Service Co., a JAL subsidiary responsible for ground operations at airports — came into contact on the tarmac at Haneda Airport on Thursday. It is suspected that the towing operation was conducted with procedures that differed from air traffic control’s instructions.