JAL Plane Crosses Stop Line at Fukuoka Airport; May Incident Resembles One in San Diego in February

Yomiuri Shimbun file photo
Japan Airlines airplanes are seen at Haneda Airport in December 2020.

A Japan Airlines airplane erroneously went beyond a stop line leading to a runway where another passenger plane was on a high-speed takeoff run at Fukuoka Airport earlier this month, it has been learned.

Both planes made emergency stops as instructed by an air traffic controller, and the JAL aircraft did not enter the runway. No one was injured in the incident.

The Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism Ministry believes that there might have been a misunderstanding between the JAL flight and air traffic control as the JAL flight side was not aware of air traffic control’s instruction to hold short of the runway. The ministry is closely investigating communication records from the time of the incident and other circumstances.

Using runway as detour

According to the ministry and Japan Airlines, JAL Flight 312 from Fukuoka to Tokyo was carrying a total of 176 passengers and crew. At about 12:20 p.m. on May 10, the Boeing 787-8 aircraft left the apron and taxied to Taxiway E6 on its way to get into position to take off northward. During the operation, the airplane crossed the stop line before the runway without clearance from air traffic control.

On the runway, J-Air Flight 3595 from Fukuoka to Matsuyama had already begun a takeoff run to the south with clearance from air traffic control. The air traffic controller noticed that the JAL airplane had crossed the stop line and instructed both planes to stop. While the J-Air Embraer 170 aircraft carrying a total of 48 passengers and crew was running at a speed of over 100 kph, it applied an emergency brake and stopped several hundred meters away from the JAL aircraft.

After that, the JAL plane completed its flight as scheduled but the J-Air aircraft needed inspection. As a result, three J-Air flights, including Flight 3595, were canceled. JAL issued a statement saying: “We apologize for causing concerns. We will analyze the cause of the incident, including communications with air traffic control, under the guidance of the transport ministry and work to prevent a recurrence.”

According to multiple sources, the air traffic controller instructed the JAL plane to hold short of the runway at E6. Along with the instruction, the controller also told the JAL plane to proceed on the runway after stopping at the stop line, then enter another taxiway and continue taxiing on the ground. The controller tried to use the runway as a detour because another passenger plane on the taxiway was in the way of the shortest route for the JAL plane.

The pilot of the JAL aircraft confirmed air traffic control’s instruction to take a detour via the runway, and air traffic control repeated the instruction to drive on the runway.

The Yomiuri Shimbun

Not aware of halt instruction?

It is not unusual for airplanes to use a runway as a detour. In the latest case, the JAL flight is believed to have crossed the stop line without being aware of the first instruction from air traffic control to halt at the stop line at E6. On the other hand, the air traffic control side might have failed to sufficiently confirm the content of the instructions as repeated by the pilot.

According to the ministry, the latest trouble does not fit the definition of an aviation accident, a serious incident, or a situation which may have an impact on safety of operations under the civil aeronautics law. However, the ministry believes that a certain misunderstanding between the controller and the pilot might have caused the JAL airplane to cross the stop line. It will confirm recorded communication records between the JAL aircraft and air traffic control and interview the air traffic controller and the pilot in order to prevent a recurrence of such incident.

In a similar incident this year, another JAL plane crossed the stop line at San Diego Airport in February.