JAL Jet Botches Orders at U.S. Airport, Forces Other Plane to Abort Landing; Govt Inspects Airline Unannounced

Yomiuri Shimbun file photo
Japan Airlines aircraft at Haneda Airport

A Japan Airlines plane taxiing at San Diego International Airport earlier this month mistakenly crossed the stop line in front of a runway, forcing another plane to make a “go-around,” or abort its landing, according to sources.

The Yomiuri Shimbun

In November, another JAL plane mistakenly entered the runway while taxiing at a different U.S. airport. The transport ministry on Tuesday conducted an unannounced on-site inspection of JAL to audit the airline’s operations and safety management based on the Civil Aeronautics Law.

According to the sources, JAL Flight 65, a Boeing 787-8 bound for Narita from San Diego, boarded its passengers and began taxiing around noon on Feb. 6. The plane was told by an air traffic controller to move along Taxiway B, parallel to a runway, and wait on Taxiway B8. Instead, the plane entered Taxiway B10 and crossed the stop line there. But after instruction by air traffic control, the pilots realized their error and stopped the plane from entering the runway at the last minute.

A Delta Air Lines plane was then approaching the runway from above and preparing to land. The JAL error forced the plane to make a go-around on emergency instructions from air traffic control. The Delta plane reportedly came as close as about 213 meters above the ground.

While the Delta plane, back at a higher elevation, made a turn, the JAL plane passed through the runway and exited onto a taxiway, before leaving for Narita about an hour later.

It appears that the JAL pilots mistakenly steered onto Taxiway B10 even though they correctly understood the controllers’ instructions. JAL told The Yomiuri Shimbun that it could not comment on the matter as the case was under internal investigation.

In November last year, JAL Flight 68 from Narita mistakenly entered a runway at the Seattle-Tacoma Airport after the pilots misunderstood the controllers’ instructions. JAL then received administrative guidance from the Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism Ministry and compiled measures, such as a review of pilot training, to prevent any similar problems.

After receiving a report from JAL about the San Diego incident, the ministry began a detailed investigation. With the case coming so quickly after JAL had compiled its new measures, the ministry took the matter seriously and conducted an unannounced inspection of JAL’s office at Haneda Airport in accordance with the Civil Aeronautics Law. JAL was told to analyze the factors behind a series of mistakes at overseas airports and compile new measures to prevent any further problems.

In December, JAL Engineering Co., JAL’s subsidiary responsible for aircraft maintenance, received a business improvement recommendation. The admonition was issued for multiple instances of improper maintenance, which the ministry confirmed through an audit in September last year.