Japan plane fire: Everything we know so far | World News

As firefighters and rescue crews work on the ground following a huge plane fire at Tokyo’s Haneda airport in Japan, investigators behind the scenes will try to piece together how it happened.

Captured in dramatic footage from the scene, a Japan Airlines aircraft can be seen bursting into flames and moving along the runway in a burning inferno following a collision with a coast guard plane.

Tokyo plane crash – live updates

Japan has already been hit by tragedy following an earthquake on New Year’s Day, with dozens dead and warnings of aftershocks.

Haneda is one of the busiest airports in Japan, and many people travel over the New Year holiday. As details from the scene continue to emerge, here is everything we know about the plane collision so far.

Which planes were involved?

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The moment plane bursts into flames

The domestic Japan Airlines Flight 516, an Airbus A350, had flown out of Shin Chitose airport in the northern island of Hokkaido, down to Tokyo’s Haneda airport on the main island of Honshu. It was carrying 379 people, including crew.

The collision also involved the coastguard aircraft MA722, a De Havilland Canada DHC-8-315Q MPA – also known as a Bombardier Dash-8 – which had six people including the pilot on board.

It had been preparing to fly to the port city of Niigata to deliver aid to those affected by the earthquake at the time of the collision, which took place at 5.47pm local time (8.47am in the UK).

Pilot and aviation consultant Tim Atkinson says the Bombardier Dash-8 is typically a short-haul airliner with about 50 to 80 seats. They are “not anything like the size of the A350s” but are “sizeable enough to have a significant volume of fuel on board”, he told Sky News.

The passenger plane either collided with the coastguard aircraft on the runway or taxiway after it touched down, Japan Airlines reportedly told the Kyodo news agency.

An Austrian Airlines
Bombardier Dash
8 Q400 aircraft in Star Alliance livery takes off from Zurich Airport January 9, 2018. REUTERS/Arnd Wiegmann
A Bombardier Dash plane – not the one involved in the collision

Passengers and crew

All 367 passengers and 12 crew on board the passenger flight were evacuated safely, Japan Airlines said.

The passengers included eight children, Kyodo reported.

“We have just witnessed a miracle,” former commercial pilot Roger Whitefield told Sky News, as footage from the scene played out. “The way they got all those passengers off that aeroplane is almost beyond belief.”

While the coastguard plane pilot managed to evacuate, the five other crew members were killed, public broadcaster NHK reported.

Japan’s transport minister confirmed the pilot of the coast guard plane was injured in the collision.

Haneda airport

What caused the collision?

It is too early to say at this stage exactly why the passenger plane hit the smaller aircraft as it landed.

Mr Atkinson, who is also an air accident investigator, said a busy airport in the evening is a “very visually challenging environment” for everyone involved – from air traffic controllers to pilots and vehicle drivers – with “an awful lot of lights of various colours, some of which are flashing”.

He said: “As one approaches a runway at night, it’s often very difficult to perceive those little signs of, for example, a relatively small aircraft.”

Accident investigators will be looking into why the two aircraft were in the same location simultaneously and whether they were both where they should have been, Mr Atkinson said.

Flight Radar 24, which tracks flights across the world, offered more details on the collision, saying the coastguard plane was not equipped with a modern ADS-B transponder.

ADS-B transponders are used to transmit highly accurate information about an aircraft’s position to ground controllers and directly to other aircraft, and are more accurate than using conventional radar surveillance.

What does footage show?

Haneda airport. Pic: NHK
Pic: NHK

Local TV video showed a large eruption of fire and smoke from the side of the Japan Airlines plane as it taxied on a runway.

The area around the wing then caught fire, and footage an hour later showed the plane fully engulfed in flames.

As firefighters battled to control the blaze, the Japan Airlines aircraft appeared to break in two.

The Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism has said it is investigating the collision.

What have survivors said?

One passenger posted footage from inside the Japan Airlines aircraft as it careered down the runway. The clip then showed people being evacuated down a slide.

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Inside the Japan Airlines flight

Some passengers have also spoken out following their ordeal.

Swede Anton Deibe, 17, told Swedish newspaper Aftonbladet that the “entire cabin was filled with smoke within a few minutes”.

He said: “We threw ourselves down on the floor. Then the emergency doors were opened and we threw ourselves at them.

“The smoke in the cabin stung like hell. It was a hell. We have no idea where we are going so we just run out into the field. It was chaos.”

Mr Deibe said he was traveling with his parents and sister.

“I felt a boom like we had hit something and jerked upward the moment we landed,” another passenger told Kyodo. “I saw sparks outside the window and the cabin filled with gas and smoke.”

What happens next?

Tetsuo Saito, Japan’s transport minister, said the airport would be closed while the collision is under investigation by aviation safety investigators and police.

However, there are hopes it can be reopened tomorrow or possibly sooner.

He added that officials are doing their best to prevent any delays to earthquake relief.

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