日航機墜落30年 安全運航への誓いを新たに

The Yomiuri Shimbun
JAL must pledge anew safe flights on 30th anniversary of fatal accident
日航機墜落30年 安全運航への誓いを新たに

Wednesday marks the 30th anniversary of a JAL jumbo jet crash into Mt. Osutaka in Gunma Prefecture that claimed the lives of 520 passengers and crew members.

It was the worst single-airplane accident in the history of world aviation. Time has passed, but it cannot erase the grief of families who lost loved ones. We want to see the anniversary day serve as an opportunity to pledge anew to ensuring the safety of air travel without letting the memory of the accident fade.

The jumbo jet was involved in a tailstrike accident during a landing in 1978, seven years before the fatal 1985 crash. Due to subsequent inadequate repairs by Boeing Co. of the United States, the aircraft’s rear pressure bulkhead broke up in flight and this resulted in the crash, according to a conclusion by the then Aircraft Accident Investigation Commission.

The commission told Japan Air Lines (currently Japan Airlines) that “its inspection methods were not adequate.”

After the 1985 disaster, the airline carried out improvement measures, including an overhaul of its maintenance system. Despite this, it received a business improvement order from the Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism Ministry in 2005 in the aftermath of the revelation of multiple instances of inadequate maintenance.

As one countermeasure, JAL established the Safety Promotion Center in 2006 at Haneda Airport. The center has played a major role as the hub for safety education for its employees. Looking at the wreckage of the pressure bulkhead, as well as articles and notes left by the victims, helps to impress upon employees the importance of safe flight operations.

All 35,000 JAL employees, including those from its group companies, had taken part in seminars at the center as of last March. More than 90 percent of JAL’s current employees joined the airline after the accident. This makes the importance of inheriting lessons from the disaster even greater.

Cultivate safety-first mindset

At the time of its financial management crisis in 2010, JAL put forth “safe flight operations” as the primary goal of its management as it worked toward revitalization. We want JAL to establish corporate culture that gives top priority to safety.

Since the 1985 JAL accident, there have been no passenger fatalities due to domestic airline accidents. However, “serious incidents” that might very well have led to great disasters have not ceased to happen. In June at Naha Airport, for example, an All Nippon Airways jetliner ready to take off was interrupted by an Air Self-Defense Force helicopter flying across its path.

The total number of landings at domestic airports has nearly doubled from 30 years ago. Given the market participation of low-cost carriers and other factors, domestic airline companies face harsh competition. But they can never be allowed to neglect efforts to ensure safety in flight operations.

Well known in this regard is Heinrich’s Law, which states, “For every accident that causes a major injury, there are 29 accidents that cause minor injuries and 300 accidents that cause no injuries.” It is essential to share information among those involved in the civil aviation industry and to prevent accidents by nipping them in the bud while they are still at the stage of small mistakes.

The transport ministry last year launched a system under which airlines are asked to voluntarily report even small operational mistakes, for which reporting is not mandatory, and information that should be made known is then published. The system must be used to prevent further accidents.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Aug. 11, 2015)

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