The Air Current - Jon Ostrower

The Tuesday evening collision between a landing Japan Airlines flight and a Japan Coast Guard (JCG) Dash 8-300 is going to form a new chapter in the history of contemporary commercial aircraft safety — providing critical lessons for the latest generation of all new aircraft and illustrating a successful evacuation that promises to establish a baseline for crew performance. The 5:47 pm local time accident at Tokyo’s Haneda Airport resulted in the deaths of five members of the JCG aboard a De Havilland Dash 8-300 configured for maritime patrol operations — just a day after a magnitude 7.5 earthquake struck Japan, resulting in tsunami waves hitting the country’s western coast. Aboard the two-year old Airbus A350-900, all 368 passengers and 12 crew members survived virtually unscathed. 

This accident represents the first hull loss for the A350 and the nearly 1,800 next-generation carbon fiber composite airliners from Boeing and Airbus. While the investigation will center on the sequence of events leading up to the collision — including notification of inoperative stop bar lights buried in a list of coded NOTAMs and a hold short instruction that the JCG crew acknowledged but failed to comply with — the accident itself provides an opportunity to examine the passenger and crew actions during the evacuation, the airport rescue response and the ensuing fire that consumed the jetliner’s majority carbon fiber composite structure.

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