Govt Names Expert Panel on Preventing Runway Collisions; Members Include Air Traffic Researcher, Former Pilot

Yomiuri Shimbun file photo
The Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism Ministry

Following the collision between a Japan Airlines passenger plane and a Japan Coast Guard aircraft on a Haneda Airport runway in Tokyo earlier in January, the transport ministry on Friday established a committee of outside experts to study measures to prevent similar accidents.

The committee’s first meeting is planned to be held on Jan. 19.

The committee will discuss areas of improvement for both hardware and software related to air traffic control and safe airport operations, and will compile its recommended measures.

In the Jan. 2 collision, the air traffic controllers in charge of the runway had instructed the JCG aircraft to move to a stop position just before the runway entrance, but the aircraft was inside the runway at the time of the accident. Although a warning system to detect an aircraft’s erroneous approach to the runway was activated by the aircraft’s move, the air traffic controllers and others were unaware of the activation and the crash occurred.

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Wreckage of the Japan Airlines plane that caught fire on a Haneda Airport runway in Tokyo

The committee is chaired by Prof. Akinori Komatsubara of Waseda University, who is an expert in the prevention of human error, and it also includes an air traffic control researcher and a former pilot.

The committee will examine the need to review the method of communication between pilots and air traffic controllers, and measures to strengthen systems to prevent erroneous approaches to runways.

The committee plans to compile an interim report by the end of this summer or shortly thereafter and it will be released to the public.

Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism Minister Tetsuo Saito told reporters on Friday, “Substantial safety measures will be implemented following the Japan Transport Safety Board’s investigation into the cause of the accident, but it is important to take various measures as quickly and multiply as possible without waiting for the investigation to be completed.”