Fukuoka Air Traffic Controller Fails to Ask JAL Pilots to Repeat Instructions; Miscommunication Leads to Dangerous Situation at Airport

Yomiuri Shimbun file photo
The Fukuoka Airport

An air traffic controller failed to ask Japan Airlines pilots to repeat the instructions when the 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.

The air traffic controller should have followed protocol and asked the JAL pilots to repeat the instructions to hold short of the runway. This part of the procedure is one of the main steps of the emergency measures put in place following a fatal collision involving a JAL passenger plane and a Japan Coast Guard aircraft at Haneda Airport in January.

The Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism Ministry again informed air traffic controllers nationwide of the procedure and said it will investigate the incident to prevent recurrence.

JAL Flight 312 left the apron in the afternoon of May 10 and was heading toward the runway’s southern edge via a taxiway. The plane then crossed the stop line at Connector Taxiway E6, which leads to the runway.

The air traffic controller instructed the aircraft to hold short of the runway at E6 and prepare to proceed on the runway, then enter another connector taxiway and go on to a parallel taxiway.

On the runway, a J-Air aircraft had already begun its takeoff run. The air traffic controller noticed the JAL airplane crossing the stop line and instructed both planes to stop.

The Yomiuri Shimbun

According to several ministry officials, the pilots on Flight 312 did not repeat the instruction to hold short of the runway but still asked the air traffic controller for subsequent instructions of going onto the runway and another taxiway. The air traffic controller again told the pilots the subsequent instructions but did not ask them to repeat the previous instructions to hold short of the runway.

Three pilots ― a pilot training to become a captain who was communicating with the air traffic controller, a command pilot and a copilot ― were aboard JAL Flight 312, but all three failed to recognize the error and crossed the stop line.

It is basic procedure for pilots to repeat the air traffic controller’s clearances and instructions and for the air traffic controller to confirm the repeated instructions. If pilots do not repeat the instructions or repeat the instructions incorrectly, the air traffic controller has to point out the error and have the pilots repeat the instructions again.

The day after the January collision at Haneda Airport, the ministry instructed air traffic controllers nationwide to “make sure that pilots repeat and confirm the clearances and instructions regarding runway use, particularly when planes are approaching or holding short of a runway.”