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Japan Airlines collision: How 'written in blood' evacuation rules saved passengers; safety video goes viral

Amidst the chaos that unfolded at Tokyo airport on Tuesday, the Japan Airlines cabin crew played a pivotal role in maintaining order, urging passengers to remain calm and cooperate. The efficiency and orderliness of the evacuation received praise from passengers and aviation experts alike.

Japan Airlines collision: How 'written in blood' evacuation rules saved passengers; safety video goes viral snt
First Published Jan 3, 2024, 1:08 PM IST

In a harrowing yet miraculous incident on Tuesday, passengers aboard Japan Airlines (JAL) flight 516 narrowly escaped a catastrophic event at Haneda Airport in Tokyo. The routine flight from Sapporo to Tokyo, one of the world's busiest air routes, concluded with a dramatic runway collision and a subsequent massive fire. Following the landing, the Airbus A350, carrying 379 passengers and crew, collided with a Coast Guard plane, leading to a raging inferno. Tragically, five out of the six Coast Guard crew members lost their lives.

Satoshi Yamake, a 59-year-old telecom worker returning to Tokyo, vividly described the chaos that unfolded at 5:46 pm. "I felt the jolt and saw the engine ablaze," he recounted. The circumstances surrounding the collision, a rarity in modern aviation due to advanced safety measures, are currently under intense investigation.

Also read: Tokyo airport collision: Japan Airlines apologizes to passengers; condoles death of Coast Guard crew members

Surviving the catastrophic incident, Genki Miyamoto, the 39-year-old captain of the Coast Guard plane, emerged miraculously unscathed. Unfortunately, his crewmates, aged between 27 and 56, were not as fortunate. Miyamoto's survival and his prompt alert to his base about the explosion brought a glimmer of hope amid the tragedy.

Inside the JAL aircraft, panic set in as smoke filled the cabin. Tsubasa Sawada, a 28-year-old resident of Tokyo, recounted the initial underestimation of the situation, which rapidly escalated as the fire intensified. "I really thought I was going to die," Sawada expressed, reflecting the sentiments of many on board.

Amidst the chaos that followed, the flight attendants played a crucial role in preserving order, encouraging passengers to stay calm and cooperate. Their endeavors were reinforced by the prompt response of 115 firefighting units, who fought against the flames that ultimately engulfed the aircraft.

Yamake commended the effectiveness and organization of the evacuation, highlighting the absence of hand luggage—a practice often discouraged by aviation safety agencies. Paul Hayes, an air safety director, praised this as a remarkable accomplishment, underscoring the vital role played by the cabin crew.

"I can only say it was a miracle, we could have died if we were late," a passenger told Reuters.

The Japanese transport ministry recognized the airline's evacuation procedures as "conducted appropriately." Sawada's characterization of the incident as a "miracle" underscores the collective relief of passengers and a newfound apprehension towards flying.

According to a CNN report, the Haneda Airport incident emphasizes the vital role of aviation safety procedures, shaped by the legacy of past tragedies. Graham Braithwaite, a professor at Cranfield University, points to Japan Airlines' transformation after a devastating accident in 1985, where 520 lives were lost due to a faulty repair. This event marked a pivotal moment for the airline, fostering a culture deeply rooted in safety and continuous improvement.

Also read: Japan Airlines' dramatic evacuation: Video reveals how 379 people escaped blaze after Tokyo airport collision

JAL personnel keenly recognize that the prevailing standards of aviation safety have been forged through the crucible of past tragedies. As one pilot poignantly conveyed to CNN, these safety benchmarks are "written in the blood of others who haven't been so fortunate." This sobering truth emphasizes that each accident serves as a valuable learning opportunity, with lessons shared across the industry to enhance the proficiency of all crew members in their roles.

Japan Airlines' unwavering dedication to safety is apparent in its continual inclusion among the world's safest airlines, as recognized by Geoffrey Thomas, the editor-in-chief, applauds the airline for its impressive safety record since 1985, highlighting its commitment to rigorous safety audits and procedures, according to the CNN report.

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