JCG Plane Captain Flew 7 Hours Day Before Collision; Safety Board to Confirm His Medical Condition at Time of Flight

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Investigators examine the wreckage of the Japan Coast Guard aircraft at Haneda Airport in Tokyo on Thursday.

The captain of the Japan Coast Guard plane that collided with a Japan Airlines jet at Tokyo’s Haneda airport on Tuesday had been on a seven-hour flight for monitoring a Chinese public vessel the day before the collision, it was learned Saturday.

The 39-year-old captain flew to and from the area around Okinotorishima Island in a separate plane on Monday. The southernmost island in Japan is located about 1,700 kilometers from Haneda Airport.

The Japan Transport Safety Board plans to confirm his medical condition at the time of the flight.

After obtaining information that a Chinese oceanographic research vessel was in the waters surrounding Okinotorishima Island, the captain headed to the area at about 10 a.m. on Monday to keep the ship’s activities under surveillance, according to sources close to the JCG.

He continued to monitor the Chinese vessel in the area, and returned to Haneda Airport at about 5 p.m., soon after Monday’s earthquake hit Ishikawa Prefecture and elsewhere, the sources said.

The captain was on duty to deliver relief supplies to the quake-stricken area on Tuesday.

While stopped on the runway at 5:47 p.m., the JCG aircraft collided with a Japan Airlines plane that had just landed.

The captain, who managed to escape on his own from the aircraft, is receiving treatment at a hospital for serious injuries.

The JCG aircraft made two round-trips to disaster areas before the collision. The day of the accident was the first time the captain went on a support mission, sources said.

As of the end of December, he flew a total of 3,641 hours and one minute, and has been a captain for four years and 11 months. He was assigned to JCG’s airbase at Haneda in April 2019.

It is not unusual for JCG officials to work two consecutive flying days.

“His working conditions prior [to the accident] were not excessive and he had no physical or mental health problems,” a JCG senior official said.