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Thursday, 1 February, 2001, 14:05 GMT
Signals blamed for near collision

The incident occurred over Yaizu
Crowded skies and confusing signals from traffic controllers may have contributed to a near collision between two Japanese planes, officials said Thursday.


It felt like a plunge on a roller coaster ride

29-year-old passenger
The two aircraft, carrying almost 700 passengers, may have come within just 10m (33 feet) of each other.

One of the planes - a Japan Airlines jumbo jet- had to swerve abruptly to avoid colliding with a DC10 from the same airline, leaving 42 people injured, three of them seriously.

I have never seen a plane fly so close. I thought we were going to crash

Passenger on Boeing

This new estimate of the planes' close proximity makes the incident far more serious than previously thought. According to the flight plans, they should have passed at a distance of about 600m.

Trainee controller

The planes were flying at an altitude of 11,000 metres (36,000 feet) when the incident occurred.

ceiling of boeing
Inspecting the Boeing's damaged ceiling
Japanese media have reported that a trainee handling 10 other flights at the time, might have issued confusing instructions to the pilots.

The 26-year-old controller involved was not yet certified to act independently in the airspace he was monitoring, government officials said.

"We must place priority on avoiding collisions, before thinking about putting passengers and crew in danger through a sudden change of course," a Japanese pilot said.

The pilots of both planes reported that their collision warning devices went off, forcing them to take emergency measures.

Japan Airlines Vice-President Yasushi Yuasa said that he had never heard of a near-miss involving planes from the same airline before.

Pandemonium

The Japan Airlines jumbo, which had taken off from Tokyo, was half an hour into its flight bound for Naha, Okinawa, when the near-miss occurred.

A woman passenger is attended to by an flight attendant at Tokyo's Haneda airport
Some people were thrown into the air
There was pandemonium as it went into a steep dive, straightened out and then dived again.

Some people were not wearing seatbelts and were thrown up to the ceiling.

Flight attendants had just begun serving hot drinks and some passengers were scalded as drinks shot up in the air.

"I thought it was the end for us," a 57-year-old passenger said.


It was not like turbulence. It was like a nose dive

Passenger
A flight attendant pushing a drinks trolley hit the ceiling, and fell back to the aisle with the trolley on top of her, witnesses said.

The three people in a serious condition included a 35-year old crew member who was unconscious, but the injuries were not life threatening.

The aircraft immediately returned to Tokyo's Haneda airport.

The other plane, a DC10 flying from Pusan, South Korea, landed at Narita airport shortly afterwards. None of its 237 passengers or 13 crew were injured.

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