Japan Coast Guard To Establish ‘Rules For Conversation’ After Collision With JAL Plane At Tokyo’s Haneda Airport

Yomiuri Shimbun file photo
Repair work is conducted at Tokyo’s Haneda Airport on Jan. 7 at the site where a Japan Coast Guard aircraft collided with a Japan Airlines plane.

The Japan Coast Guard plans to establish “rules on conversation” aboard JCG aircraft, in the wake of the collision with a Japan Airlines plane at Tokyo’s Haneda Airport in January, sources have said.

The rules are intended to allow pilots to concentrate on handling their aircraft and communicating with air traffic controllers, by clarifying that conversations among crew members must be restricted to the minimum needed for operational purposes before takeoff and landing.

JCG air bases and facilities for training aviation personnel are already implementing the new rules on a trial basis. They will be incorporated into internal flight manuals and other materials as soon as relevant issues are investigated.

In the Jan. 2 accident, an air traffic controller addressed the JCG aircraft as “No. 1,” suggesting that it was next in line to depart, when instructing it to proceed to a holding point outside a runway. However, the aircraft mistakenly entered the runway and collided with a JAL plane that was attempting to land.

Five of the six crew members aboard the JCG plane were killed, with only the captain managing to escape. All 379 passengers and crew members aboard the JAL plane escaped, but more than 10 sustained throat or other injuries.

“I mistakenly thought I had permission [to enter the runway],” the captain of the JCG aircraft said in an interview afterward. The Japan Transport Safety Board is looking into the details of the accident, including why the captain misunderstood the controller’s instructions.

After the accident, the JCG began studying measures to be taken, without waiting for the cause of the incident to be determined.

The JCG wants to create an environment in which both captains and copilots can concentrate on communication and piloting to improve operational safety. It therefore decided to require that other crew members should not, in principle, inform pilots of operational information unrelated to pilots’ communications with air traffic controllers when the aircraft is moving on land or before takeoff and landing.

Among other rules are that communications on board should be limited to those truly necessary for operational purposes, and that pilots themselves should refrain from engaging in communications other than those with air traffic controllers.

A trial introduction of the rules began at JCG’s 13 air bases and two institutes for aviation personnel training at the end of January. The air base at Haneda, where operations are currently suspended, and the base in Hachinohe, Aomori Prefecture, where only unmanned aircrafts are stationed, were excluded from the trial.

The JGC plans to verify the effectiveness of the rules and any related problems after collecting opinions and suggestions for improvement from its personnel. It will then incorporate the necessary information into flight operation rules and manuals to have them carefully observed by its personnel.

In January, immediately after the accident, the JCG conducted emergency safety inspections at its air bases and other facilities nationwide to reconfirm operation manuals and other materials, and ensure their implementation.