Corrected: JAL Airbus and Coast Guard Dash 8 In Fiery Runway Collision


Five Japanese Coast Guard personnel are dead and the command pilot seriously injured after their de Havilland Canada DHC-8 Dash 8 was struck by a Japan Airlines Airbus A350-900 on the runway at Tokyo Haneda International Airport. Though the landing Airbus caught fire and was gutted by the flames, all 379 on board escaped with minor injuries reported.

JAL Flight 516 was arriving on a domestic flight from Sapporo at 5:47 p.m. local time on Tuesday (Jan. 2) (3:47 a.m. EST). A spokesman for the Japanese Coast Guard told CNN the Coast Guard Dash 8 was preparing for takeoff on a flight to an airbase in the prefecture of Niigata to support relief efforts related to the 7.5-magnitude earthquake that hit Japan on Monday.

Surveillance video posted by CNN shows the Airbus just after the collision as it burst into flames and skidded down Runway 34R with fire emanating from its nosewheel and left wing. The Dash 8 is not visible in the video. Additional video from CNN shows the smoke-filled cabin interior with passengers beginning to evacuate. All 367 passengers, including eight small children, and 12 crew members on the Airbus escaped the burning wreckage via emergency slides.

Haneda Airport has main parallel runways (16R/34L and 16L/34R) with two crosswind runways. Runway 04/22 to the north end of the airport only intersects very close to the departure end of Runway 34L. Runway 05/23 to the south does not intersect with either of the parallel runways. So, the configuration of the airport suggests that investigators will be exploring the possibility that, because the Airbus was landing on Runway 34R, the collision likely involved a runway incursion on Runway 34R by the Dash 8 for reasons not yet determined.

(This story was corrected to include updated passenger numbers, corrected time of day, and corrected runway information.)

Mark Phelps
Mark Phelps is a senior editor at AVweb. He is an instrument rated private pilot and former owner of a Grumman American AA1B and a V-tail Bonanza.


    • My gut feeling is the twr put the dash 8 tiph taxi into position and hold/ liuw
      line up and wait at the intersection. Rwy 34R.

      What a tragedy. Would love to know the controllers schedule. overtime, rest, fatigue.
      5:47am. was he/she in the last minutes of a midshift? How many people in the tower cab? Will try to see if i can listen to any atc tapes. What a shame, 5 lives lost, 2 airplanes destroyed. A mess to clean up.

      RIP to the deceased. Godspeed to the survivors. I tip my hat to the japanese , first the earthquake, now the plane collision.

  1. “ The Dash 8 is not visible in the video. ” probably because it was obliterated on impact. RIP to those who perished

  2. Latest from the tapes is the coast guard was told to hold short. Somehow possibly got at least partially onto the runway, maybe some communication confusion with the tower or in the dash 8 cockpit.
    More to come, as always i hope we all learn something from an accident.


  3. Is it just me, or does anyone else think that all of the airliner’s passengers evacuating with no fatalities is nothing short of a miracle?
    The evacuation procedures carried out by the crew must have been flawless, but still… looking at the initial fireball, one would have expected a horrific casualty rate, and here everyone walked away…

      • I put it down to flawless response of everyone on board. And nobody holding up the evacuation by rooting around to save their precious carry-on, killing half of those unfortunately behind them in line. A tragedy indeed, somewhat mitigated by what truly was a miracle.

        • Agree. Aside from the TSA clown act, the passengers too lazy to use check baggage, and who insist on trying to stuff all their belongings in the overhead and holding everyone else up in the process is another reason I won’t fly commercially anymore.

      • I also believe a plane load of Americans would have resulted in fatalities. We’d be watching videos of carryons flying down the slides, selfies, cellphone videos,…It would not have been nearly as efficient and orderly.

    • The flight attendants should be awarded as heroes here. They sprung into action and save the day!

    • I strongly suspect it had a great deal to do with passengers having a highly disciplined culture where they followed procedures and instructions. If this had been a flight in many other places in the world (including the U.S.), I doubt the evacuation would’ve been as fast and orderly. People trying to take their carryons, climbing over each other, too overweight to physically make it out an overwing exit or get down the aisle quickly, etc. etc. Give the passengers and their discipline some credit for this.

      • I agree with Paul in Texas! Japan is highly orderly society that takes things seriously and follows directions.
        Well above what is encountered in other countries.

      • On two occasions I’ve flown in and out of Haneda after a bus transfer from Narita. I was astonished at how rapidly they boarded the entire plane. They are no doubt a highly orderly society. However, I think seeing and feeling the heat from a huge fire outside with the cabin quickly filling with smoke and the flight attendants barking orders on a megaphone most anyone would comply with orders on fear of death.

    • Being primarily Japanese passengers is most likely the reason. Did you note on video they were all seated and waiting for instructions. In the US I believe the majority would have been up and searching for their carryon luggage and many would not have made it out. IMHO

    • They apparently kept their cool, got up and made their way out. Here in the US I wonder. People would be grabbing their overhead luggage, jamming the aisle, taking selfies, talking on their phone and be unaware. Though a friend of mine was on a SW Flight departing New Orleans that sucked a bird through the engine. She took a video and the people in the plane were remarkably calm despite the shaking and emergency so maybe I am wrong.

    • It is a miracle that they all escaped from the JAL A350. However, the evacuation apparently took 18 minutes. These aircraft are designed to be fully evacuated in less than 90 seconds. It will be interesting to understand why it took so long. They were lucky that the fire didn’t spread more quickly, possibly inhibited by the carbon fiber airframe.

  4. Shades of the 1991 LAX collision between U.S. Air Flight 1493 [ 737-300 ] landing and a Skywest Metroliner in ” position and hold ” [ in those days ] that TWR controller forgot about.

  5. Thank goodness for competent cabin crew. They’re not there just to smile and serve beverages n snacks. Looks like they earned their pay on this flight.

    • You’re absolutely right. Emergency ground evacuation been a big deal in airline crew training for some time now–practiced over and over and over. The best comment in all airline pre-flight safety briefings (videos) is to “know where the nearest exit is…and realize it may be behind you.” Another biggie: seats upright and tray tables stowed.

      This is also a testament to the often maligned investigators’ suggestions for corrective actions after similar accidents that didn’t end so well. The placement of emergency exits, and the existence of exits based on the number of aisles, inflatable slides, etc.

      However, the response of passengers during an evacuation has as much to do with the success as anything. Kudos to all involved in this tragic event. It could have been much worse.

  6. Both flight crew and cabin crew operating the JAL flight stated that all pax complied with instructions to leave personal belongings behind, not access overhead bins, and follow exact orders of crew– which in videos, most if not all pax, did exactly that and down the slides they went—
    Thus, no fatalities.
    A few minor abrasions. sprains, maybe a minor fracture , amongst a handful if that.
    90 seconds to 2 minutes to maybe 3 minutes.
    Up and out.
    Great operation too, by Crash Fire Rescue crews as well.

  7. I read an article about it talking about the miraculous survivals. It said that in spite of the appearance of the fire, the Airbus construction did what was intended, burn slow and stay out of the cabin. You’ll have to find the article to get the whole story. But officials are impressed at how slowly it burned compared to previous construction materials. Still miraculous.

    • Blancolirio already has a video up and it shows the A350 surprisingly intact post crash, during the evacuation. There was fire present mostly aft, but it was consumed by fire after everyone was off. As mentioned above, it appears the composite construction delayed the fire’s progress into the cabin. He also mentions that pilots were apparently unable to shutdown number 2 and it keep running during the evacuation, further reducing the number of usable exits.

  8. I wonder if the coast guard aircraft had its transponder and all lights on. Surely TCAS on the airbus would have picked it up. One would think the JAL pilots might have seen the strobe lights? The visibility appears pretty good in the video.

    • The dash 8 transponder wouldn’t be transmitting if it was on the ground, so the TCAS wouldn’t pick it up.

    • In the dark with all the lights on the runway a plane sitting would be difficult to see. As others have said most likely the ADSB would be in ground mode and not transmitting. That is if it is required in Japanese Airspace. I have no idea.

  9. Situations like this are when the flying public find out that the “cabin crew” do more than just serve drinks and show you how to fasten/unfasten your seat belt.

  10. Complete agreement on optimum performance of flight attendants and evacuating passengers. As a retired FAA regulator, this successful evacuation also underscores cabin safety and crashworthiness regulatory improvements of the 1980’s/1990’s (Thank you Congressman Mineta): minimum required number of flight attendants; minimum required number of emergency exits; reduced flammability of cabin interior materials; maximum distance between emergency exits; emergency evacuation floor path lighting; independent power source for cabin public address systems; and requirement for evacuation demonstration/certification to evacuate certified passenger capacity in less than 90 seconds assuming failure of 1/2 of available emergency exits.

    Also be thankful that FAA declined to permit deletion/deactivation of overwing emergency exits for Boeing 747, which could have set a precedent for other manufacturers.

    Who says aviation safety regulations are overly burdensome?

    • “ Who says aviation safety regulations are overly burdensome?”

      Me. Those same regulations have created a situation where new pilots are training in aircraft with 1960’s levels of safety.

      I’m as happy as anyone about the safe evacuation and credit everyone involved from the regulators through maintenance to the crews and the parents of the well performing passengers. Let’s not get carried away though. We’ve gone too far in many areas and it kills people every year.

  11. Hi all, more details to come, wonder if the twr cab has asde-x ground radar, also adsb
    integrated into the twr cab radar displays. The coast guard position would then be displayed as past the hold bars . Going to watch blancolirio — thanks juan —and see if any new details he is reporting. Yes time in the report now correct to 5:47 pm not am.
    So after sunset and was dark. Twr would have been fully staffed.
    Sad to see this. Dash-8 loaded with earthquake relief supplies.

    faa retired atc.

  12. Likely the primary factor in saving so many lives was the relative sizes of these two aircraft. The A350 was large enough and the Dash 8 was small enough that the big plane was essentially able to drive right over the little plane, sustaining relatively moderate damage from the collision itself. Had the aircraft been more similarly sized, we would probably be talking about a much different outcome. Kudos to the JAL crew for their excellent response as well. I hope the Dash 8 captain makes a full recovery and does not take his own life to honor his dead crew.

  13. Interesting to note that the Foreflight App that I use will give me an Alert if there is an Aircraft on the Runway, when I’m on Final for the same Runway. I find it hard to believe that an A350 wouldn’t have at least that much technology on board.

  14. When you fly into Paris, or even Montreal, you hear ATC talking in both English and French, depending on the flightcrew’s preference. In this accident you have two flightcrews and two controllers, all Japanese, speaking English to each other. I could see how that could cause confusion at times.

    • As a pilot and retired controller, what causes confusion is pilots that don’t understand the internationally approved language of aviation, English. It’s required of all commercial crew and all controllers. How can a pilot know if another aircraft took the wrong instruction or was given a wrong instruction if they can’t understand the language spoken? Controllers should be speaking English everywhere and shouldn’t be talking in multiple languages, period! The checks and balances of the ATC system depend on everyone on the frequency hearing and understanding all communications, not just the ones directed to them. Situational awareness goes out the window otherwise.

      • Controllers are allowed to speak in their home language. They do have to have proficiency in English but are only required to use English if it is requested by the pilot. Whether we like it or not that is how it is. Hearing what other aircraft are being told is important for situational awareness but clearly understanding what ATC is telling your aircraft is even more important in my opinion.

  15. Long ago-inbound to LGA in a Navajo. Cleared to land 31. On final I saw an airplane, I think a small jet, sitting on the end of the runway. Mentioned it to tower. Total panic-can you do a 360. Affirmative. Tower asked that I call. They couldn’t stop apologizing. Later even that same day head on with another airplane under “positive control” along the East river. Another phone call-so so sorry.
    Phoenix more recently-cleared for takeoff. My reply-I think I’ll wait for the 737 on 1/4 mile final.
    US airline passengers are not fat dumb and happy. They are fat dumb and unhappy. The same sub humans who are driving 70 in a 45, until they get a wooden cross next to the highway.