Web Stories Saturday, February 24

TOKYO: A Korean Air airliner “struck” an empty Cathay Pacific plane while taxiing at a snow-hit Japanese airport on Tuesday (Jan 16), with both airlines saying there were no injuries.

The incident at New Chitose Airport serving Sapporo came two weeks after a near-catastrophic collision at Tokyo’s Haneda Airport between a Japan Airlines airliner and a smaller coast guard plane.

“Our aircraft, which was stationary at the time with no customers nor crew onboard, was struck by a Korean Air A330 which was taxiing past,” Cathay Pacific said in a statement.

Korean Air also confirmed there were no injuries among the 276 passengers and 13 crew on board its Airbus A330-300 that had been set to depart for Seoul Incheon from New Chitose on the northern Japanese island of Hokkaido.

The airline said its plane “came into contact” with the Cathay aircraft at 5.35 pm Japanese time “during pushback … when the third-party ground handler vehicle slipped due to heavy snow.

“There were no injuries and the airline is cooperating with all relevant authorities,” the carrier said.

The operator of the airport, Hokkaido Airports, was not immediately available for comment.

Neither airline gave information on the amount of damage done but both said that their passengers needed to be transferred to other planes.

Airport firefighters were on standby following the accident, but no oil leaks or fires had been confirmed, according to Hokkaido Cultural Broadcasting.

Hokkaido has been hit by a cold front in recent days with heavy snow warnings issued in several cities.

According to reports, 46 flights were cancelled on Tuesday due to heavy snow.

TIGHTENED PROTOCOLS

In the Jan 2 incident, all 379 people on board the Japan Airlines Airbus escaped just before the aircraft was engulfed in flames. Five of the six people on the smaller aircraft died.

The Japanese government announced last week that it has tightened its air traffic control protocols after the accident.

Under the new requirements in place nationwide, a staff member must constantly watch a monitoring system that alerts control towers when runway incursions take place.

And to prevent misunderstandings, controllers must not tell planes what number in line they are for take-off, the ministry said in statements uploaded to its website.

“One of my biggest missions is to restore confidence in aviation as public transport,” Transport Minister Tetsuo Saito said.

The ministry also said it would set up an expert panel to investigate further ways to improve safety.

A transcript of communications released by the ministry suggested that the JAL plane was cleared to land, but the coast guard plane was instructed to halt before the runway.

Controllers told the coast guard plane that it was “No.1”, meaning next in line for take-off.

But the coast guard pilot – the only survivor – has reportedly said he believed he had clearance to move onto the runway, where his plane stood for around 40 seconds before the crash.

In the decade to 2023, at least 23 “serious incidents” that risked a runway collision were reported by the Japan Transport Safety Board, according to the Asahi newspaper.

In five of the cases, mistakes in air traffic control were suspected as a cause, the newspaper said.

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