Japanese officials have launched two separate investigations into Tuesday’s deadly plane crash, in which five people died after a coast guard turboprop passenger plane collided at a Tokyo airport and burst into flames.
Transportation security officials are focusing on communication between air traffic control officers and the two aircraft to determine what led to the collision at Haneda Airport. Meanwhile, police have launched a separate investigation into possible professional negligence, according to the AP.
Japan Airlines Flight 516, an Airbus A350-900, landed on a runway at Tokyo’s Haneda Airport and collided with Coast Guard Flight MA-722, a Bombardier Dash-8.
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The Airbus burst into flames and then came to a stop, spewing gray smoke. Miraculously, all 367 passengers and 12 crew were safely evacuated by sliding down emergency chutes.
However, the collision killed five of the six crew members on the Dash 8. The captain escaped the wreckage but was seriously injured.
Japanese authorities said on Wednesday that the passenger jet was cleared to land, but the smaller plane was not cleared to take off, based on transcripts of conversations with the control tower, according to Reuters.
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The transcripts appeared to show that the Japan Airlines plane had been allowed to land but that the Coast Guard plane had been told to travel to a holding point near the runway. The Airbus had flown from Shin Chitose Airport, near the city of Sapporo, to Haneda
An official with Japan’s Civil Aviation Bureau said there was no indication in those copies that the Coast Guard aircraft had been cleared to take off.
The captain of the Coast Guard plane said he entered the runway after receiving clearance, a Coast Guard official told Reuters, while acknowledging there was no indication in the transcripts that he had been cleared to do so.
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The Japan Transportation Safety Board (JTSB) said safety investigators plan to interview pilots and officials from both sides, as well as air traffic control officials, to find out how the two planes ended up on the runway at the same time.
The fire is likely to be seen as a key test case for aircraft fuselages made from carbon fiber composites – seen on the A350 and Boeing 787 – rather than conventional aluminum skins.
“This is the most devastating composite airplane fire I can think of. On the other hand, that fuselage protected (passengers) from a really horrific fire — it didn’t burn for some time and let everyone out.” said security consultant John Cox.
Reuters and The Associated Press contributed to this report.