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 of Alaska Airlines said....

the World's Worst Single Aircraft Accident

   

 



            Japan Marks 20th Anniversary of JAL Crash
Friday, August 12, 2005

TOKYO (AP) -Japan Airlines' president climbed up to the remote, mountainous site of history's worst single airplane disaster on Friday in a ceremony marking the 20th anniversary of a JAL Boeing jumbo jet crash that killed 520 people.

Toshiyuki Shimmachi offered flowers as he paid his respects to the victims in an early morning visit to Osutaka Ridge. Afterward, he pledged ``strongly to the 520 souls that such a disaster will never be repeated.''

Joining him were dozens of mourners who made their way up to the quiet hillside, which is still dotted with wooden markers, small shrines and trinkets where the bodies of the victims of JAL Flight 123 were found.

The jet was en route from Tokyo to Osaka when it lost its vertical tail section and crashed into a steep, forested mountainside in central Gunma prefecture (state), about 70 miles northwest of the capital. All but four people on board were killed.

A government probe faulted Boeing Co. for improper repairs to the jet and the Chicago-based airplane manufacturer reached a compensation agreement with families of 54 of the victims in 1991.

Japanese prosecutors decided not to file criminal charges in 1990, when the five-year statute of limitations expired in the case.

The crash anniversary comes as JAL struggles with its public image following an embarrassing series of safety lapses since January.

In June, the tires of the two front wheels of a JAL jet came off during landing in a domestic flight. A few months earlier, a JAL pilot attempted to take off without receiving approval from air traffic controllers.

These and other incidents prompted Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi to order all Japanese airlines to urgently inspect their planes.

On Friday, a JAL DC-10 carrying 229 people bound for Honolulu returned to the Fukuoka airport in southern Japan after developing engine trouble shortly after takeoff, officials said. No injuries were reported.

Transport Ministry official Kenji Sato said parts are believed to be turbine blades that broke off inside the engine.

It was some 12 hours after the worst catastrophe involving a single airplane, that rescuers reached survivors of the horrific crash 70 miles north-west of Tokyo. There were only four, out of 524 who survived aboard Japan airlines flight 123, which left Tokyo's Haneda airport under the command of Captain Takahama.

The Boeing 747SR took off at 6.12pm local time, climbing to 24,000ft. But 12 minutes after take-off, as it was approaching its cruising altitude, the Jumbo was shaken by a depressurisation explosion. At the same time the captain radioed he was getting no response from his controls as a result of a total loss of hydraulic pressure. A flight engineer reported the rear hold had blown and door number five was open.



Extracts from the CVR recorded conversation on the flight deck:

18.24  Bang heard from rear of aircraft Beep..Beep.. (cabin pressure warning horn)
      
Captain Takahama: (The captain called for; Emergency squawk 7700 on transponder)

Flight Engineer: "Hydraulic pressure down...amber light on...."

Captain Takahama: "Right turn....Right turn"

Flight Engineer: "I did..."

Captain Takahama: "Tokyo, JAL 123. Request for immed...e......trouble. Request return to
            Haneda. Decend an maintain two two zero. Over."

Tokyo Control:  "Roger, approved as you requested."

Captain Takahama: "Radar vector to Oshima, please."

Captain Takahama: "Hydro.....all no good."

Tokyo Control: "Fly heading zero none zero, radar vector Oshima."

Captain Takahama: "But, now uncontrol."

Tokyo control: "Uncontrol. Roger, understood."

18.28   Door five, right warning light illuminated, to indicate it was unlocked.

Flight Engineer: (reported after conversation, via plane intercom, with flight attendant)
     "Captain, door five right window. Emergency descent may be advisable.
Shall we use our oxygen masks, too?"

Captain Takahama: "Yes, that's better"

Tokyo control: "You are now 72 miles from Nagoya; can you land at Nagoya?"

Captain Takahama: "Request return to Haneda"

18.33  At this stage the engines were still operational, however all flying
controls and hydraulic systems were inoperative. The aircraft was experiencing
a condition called "Dutch roll". The off duty stewardess Yumi Ochiai, one
of the four survivors, who had been sitting in the rear section of the plane
recalled how the 747 began to "hira-hira", fall like a leaf. 

The pilots attempted to direct the aircraft using the engines alone, and
lowered the landing gear to try to help control the speed and stability
of the plane.

18.41 At 22,000ft complete control was lost and the aircraft banked in a
full circle  2.5 miles in radius over Otsuki City.

18.47  Tokyo Control: "Can you control now"

Captain Takahama: "Uncontrollable"

Captain Takahama: "Hey, there's a mountain.

Captain Takahama: "Turn right. Up. We'll crash into a mountain"

The crew applied full power to climb but the aircraft began to pitch up and down wildly.
Then the speed began to drop rapidly down to 108kt.

Flight Engineer: "Shall I rev it up?"

Captain Takahama: "Rev up, Rev up..Oh no.....stall."

Captain Takahama: "Maximum power"

Flight Engineer: "We are gaining speed"

Captain Takahama: "Keep trying"

Captain Takahama: "The speed is 220kt."

Tokyo Approach: "JAL 123, your position five ah, five ah, 45 miles northwest of Haneda"

Captain Takahama: "Northwest of Haneda. Eh, how, how many miles?"

Tokyo Approach: "Yes, that's right. According to our radar it is 55 miles northwest, ah
25 miles west of Kumagaya. Roger, I will talk in Japanese. We are ready for your
approach any time. Also, Yokota landing is available. Let us know your intensions."

18.50 The aircraft was now decending the Captain tried to control the plane using
flaps and power.

Captain Takahama: "Flap set?"

First Officer: "Yes, flap ten"

Captain Takahama: "Nose up....Nose up......Nose up.

Captain Takahama: "Hey, hold the flap....ah, don't lower so much flap.
Flap up, flap up, flap up."

Captain Takahama: "Power, power....flaps."

First Officer: "It is up."

Captain Takahama: "Nose up......Nose up......POWER."

Audio Ground proximity warning system sounded (GPWS)

GPWS: "Pull up..Pull up...Pull up......"

The Boeing 747 SR crashed into the side of Mount Otsuka at a height of 4780ft
70 miles North West of Tokyo.

On the 13th August 1995, debris from the stricken airliner were found in Sagami Bay
including parts of the tail fin, lower rudder, panelling from the rear fuselage and
ducting from the auxiliary power unit.

Virtually half of the tail fin had detached in flight falling into the sea between
Oshima Island and the headland.
 

The chief Japanese investigator was Mr Fujiwara, to assist in the investigation there were experts from Boeing and the NSTB including Ron Schleede, Deputy Director, Office of Aviation Safety.

It was established that seven years earlier the Boeing 747, Registration: JA8119, had been involved in a tail scrape during landing. The rear pressure bulkhead had been repaired at Osaka by Boeing Engineers. It was discovered that the pressure bulkhead had been incorrectly mended with the doubler plate not extending across the whole repair, thus a single line of rivets carried the loads.

On the 12th August 1985 at 24,000ft 18:24 local time, the seam failed in the bulkhead, causing the bulkhead to blow out, creating an overpressure in the tail severing the four sets of hyraulic control lines and blowing part of the tail section off.

Safety still in question 20 years after JAL crash

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By Miya Tanaka

TOKYO As the 20th anniversary looms on Friday of the worst single-aircraft accident in history, in which 520 people died, Japan Airlines Corp has still not convinced the bereaved families or the general public it has become a company that gives top priority to safety.

"We have been calling for safety in the sky for 20 years. But we think the company has become even worse," the association for families bereaved by the crash that occurred in a mountainous region named Osutaka Ridge in Gunma Prefecture said in its recent appeal.

Although JAL had vowed to unite all employees in establishing "absolute safety" after the disaster, a series of blunders this year have highlighted that the discrepancies between management and front-line workers are still wide enough to affect the most important issue safety.

"After 20 years, I've come to think that JAL hasn't really reflected upon the accident despite saying that Osutaka was the starting point of safety, probably because no one was blamed in the accident," a veteran cabin attendant said.

Slapped with a government operational improvement order in March following several blunders, JAL reviewed flight operation manuals and held 220 emergency meetings in April and May to improve communication between staff and management which, according to President Toshiyuki Shimmachi, have had "certain effects."

But the blunders have continued. On July 24, a jet landed at New Chitose Airport in Hokkaido without the engine thrust reversers operating because mechanics at JAL's wholly-owned subsidiary forgot to remove the safety pins after completing maintenance work.

Some JAL labor unions are concerned that streamlining has contributed to undermining safety, saying that transferring technicians to lower-paid subsidiaries and outsourcing maintenance work overseas leads to the replacement of professional technicians with less-skilled cheaper labor and to deterioration of morale.

JAL is working to reform its cost structure to improve the effects of its merger with the former Japan Air System Co, a process it aims to complete in the fiscal year ending March 31, 2007.

The company said in its medium-term plan from April 2005 to March 2008 that it will reduce costs by a total of 75 billion yen partly by cutting jobs and outsourcing more maintenance work overseas.

"Company policy and orders given to improve safety seem to be missing the point. I feel a stronger sense of crisis than I felt at the time of the Osutaka crash because of a widening perception gap between management and the front-line mechanics," said Mitsuo Ito, a 56-year-old maintenance engineer working for JAL for more than 30 years.

The increasing rate of outsourcing the aircraft maintenance workload conducted by companies overseas, such as in China, which shot up to 38% in fiscal 2004 from 8% in fiscal 1999, has also raised concerns among workers.

"JAL mechanics would naturally check not only the spot in question but the related area because we have pride that it is 'our plane.' But I don't think we can expect commissioned companies to conduct maintenance at the level we think of as normal," said Kazuhiro Ichikawa, 58, of the JAL aircraft and maintenance division.

The veteran cabin attendant, who did not wish to be identified, also feels a change among mechanics. "Staff used to thank us when we reported problems found inside the cabin as often as we could, but now they thank us when we report nothing. The front-line apparently lacks manpower, time and sufficient equipment," he said.

Although JAL said it is fully aware of the lack of communication between management and workers, President Shimmachi's answer to the workers' concerns has so far been, "We have not cut costs in areas that will affect safety."

"We have made new recruits offer prayers at the crash site and have recently shown videos of the crash to employees at overseas branches...I think such things will become the driving force toward safety," he said.

Meanwhile, experts said the merger with the former JAS, a process which began in October 2002, has also been a factor affecting safety matters.

On May 15, when a jet plane from Jakarta landed at Narita airport, near Tokyo, a cabin attendant from the former JAS was still holding two meal service carts, apparently because of a lack of sufficient training in using unfamiliar cabin equipment.

Different corporate cultures, with JAL regarded as Japan's leading international air carrier and the former JAS only operating domestic flights, may also be a factor hindering communication among employees, experts said.

"There are various concerns among workers, and the company may not admit that they affect business, but after all, employees are humans with emotions. Such things as morale are important," Hiroo Moroboshi, a former JAL pilot, said.

None of the problems and serious incidents has resulted in severe injuries to passengers, but JAL said they have started to affect its business, with cabin attendants also feeling a sense of distrust spreading among passengers.

Setsuko Onishi, 52, a JAL cabin attendant for 31 years, said there was a case in which a passenger warned a crew member that her voice was too quiet during safety checking procedures in the cabin.

Onishi, also the chief secretary of the JAL cabin crew labor union, said, "What I fear most is that passengers don't trust us as security staff in emergencies. We will continue urging the company to create an environment in which employees can concentrate on safety."

The ailing company, however, has no choice but to bring all its employees together to overcome these difficulties in an age of deregulation which is intensifying competition in the airline industry, Kazuki Sugiura, an air transport analyst, said.

"Mechanics will become busy and their wages may become low, but if JAL cannot establish a business model to manage both low-costs and safety, it means it will fail to survive in the future anyway," he said.

Sugiura thinks the 1985 crash has made JAL attach greater importance to passengers, and now that 20 years have passed, it needs to win their confidence by presenting more detailed safety measures and not just holding emergency meetings.

"The fact that there has been no fatal accident for 20 years is different from whether passengers feel safe...And that will not be solved simply by telling employees 'Don't forget Osutaka'," Sugiura said.

Meanwhile, one bereaved relative suggested it is time the company began to think seriously about how to ensure the 1985 disaster will not be forgotten within JAL, now that many of the current employees were not working for the company when the crash occurred.

"I am not hoping that JAL will keep on relating the fact that 520 people died and their families suffered...because to those who did not experience the accident, it is, after all, someone else's problem," said Ryoichi Ogawa, 36, who lost his parents and his younger sister in the crash.

But Ogawa, now living in Kagoshima Prefecture, said he wants JAL employees to really understand the issue of safety by sharing what they themselves felt or experienced at the time of the accident, when many employees were ordered to take care of the bereaved families and JAL's business received a heavy blow.

"I think it is inevitable that the memory of the accident itself will fade. But what shouldn't be forgotten is safety, and I want to see how the company is going to address this in its policies," he said. (Kyodo News)

August 12, 2005

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Flight 123

JAL Flight 123 took off from Tokyo-Haneda at 18:12 for a flight to Osaka. At 18:24, while climbing through 23900 feet at a speed of 300 knots, an unusual vibration occurred. An impact force raised the nose of the aircraft and control problems were experienced. Two minutes later hydraulic pressure had dropped and ailerons, elevators and yaw dumper became inoperative, followed by dutch roll and plughoid oscillations (unusual movement in which altitude and speed change significantly in a 20-100 seconds cycle without change of angle of attack).
The aircraft started to descend to 6600 feet while the crew tried to control the aircraft by using engine thrust. Upon reaching 6600 feet the airspeed had dropped to 108 knots. The aircraft then climbed with a 39deg. angle of attack to a maximum of approx. 13400 feet and started to descend again. JAL123 finally brushed against a tree covered ridge, continued and struck another ridge, bursting into flames.

PROBABLE CAUSE: "Deterioration of flight characteristics and loss of primary flight controls due to rupture of the aft pressure bulkhead with subsequent ruptures of the tail, vertical fin and hydraulic flight control systems.
The reason for the aft pressure bulkhead rupture was that its strength was reduced by the fatigue cracks propagating in the spliced portion of the bulkhead's webs. The initiation and propagation of the fatigue cracks are attributable to the improper repairs of the bulkhead, conducted in 1978, and since the fatigue cracks were not found in the later maintenance inspections, this contributed to the accident."
Date: 12 AUG 1985
Time: 18:56
Type: Boeing 747-SR46
Operator: Japan Air Lines - JAL
Registration: JA8119
Msn / C/n: 20783/230
Year built: 1974
Total airframe hrs: 25000 hours
Cycles: 18800 cycles
Engines: 4 Pratt & Whitney JT9D-7AW
Crew: 15 fatalities / 15 on board
Passengers: 505 fatalities / 509 on board
Total: 520 fatalities / 524 on board
Airplane damage: Written off
Location: near Tokyo (Japan)
Phase: En route (ENR)
Nature: Domestic Scheduled Passenger
Departure airport: Tokyo-Haneda Airport (HND)
Destination airport: Osaka-Itami Airport (ITM)
Flightnumber: 123
CVR transcript Japan Air Lines Flight 123
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