Transport Ministry to Create Takeoff, Landing Coordinator in Airport Control Towers to Prevent Runway Collisions

Yomiuri Shimbun file photo
A Japan Airlines plane is seen after it collided with a Japan Coast Guard aircraft at Tokyo’s Haneda Airport in January.

The Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism Ministry will create a new control tower role that supports air traffic controllers, who are responsible for approving takeoffs and landings, in a bid to strengthen the control function at major airports in the nation, it has been learned.

In response to a fatal collision involving a Japan Airlines passenger plane and a Japan Coast Guard aircraft at Haneda Airport in January, the ministry has been meeting with an expert panel and aviation-related organizations to discuss measures to prevent similar incidents.

To strengthen the system in the control tower, the newly created role of takeoff and landing coordinator will support the air traffic controller who gives takeoff and landing permission and instructions to aircraft.

The coordinator will reduce the burden on the controller and increase takeoff and landing safety by liaising with nearby control towers and other controllers — a task also currently covered by the air traffic controller.

According to the envisaged measures, which will be announced Monday, the ministry will also reinforce the current system for detecting runway incursions by making it into a two-level system with alerts and warnings.

Under the current system, when another aircraft enters the runway that a plane scheduled to land is approaching, the monitor displays the runway in yellow and the aircraft in red.

Alarm sounds will be added to that system. When a collision is imminent, the system will switch to a stronger warning sound and display, urging controllers to give the approaching aircraft a go-around order — a last-minute order for the pilot to abort and redo the landing.

The ministry plans to include the related costs in its budget request for next fiscal year, which will be compiled in August.