2001 Japan Airlines mid-air incident
DateJanuary 31, 2001 (2001-01-31)
SummaryNear miss, ATC error
Sitenear Yaizu, Shizuoka, Japan
Total fatalities0
Total injuries100
Total survivors677
First aircraft
JA8904 Boeing B.744 JAL Japan Airlines " SkyCruiser" At Tokyo Haneda International Airport.jpg

JA8904, the aircraft involved seen at Tokyo Haneda International Airport in October 2006.
TypeBoeing 747-446D
OperatorJapan Airlines
ICAO flight No.JAL907
Call signJAPAN AIR 907
Flight originTokyo Int'l Airport, Tokyo, Japan
DestinationNaha Int'l Airport, Okinawa, Japan
Injuries100 (9 serious, 91 minor)
Second aircraft
Photo of Japan Airlines McDonnell Douglas DC-10-40 JA8546 at Nagoya-Komaki International Airport.jpg

JA8546, the aircraft involved seen at Nagoya-Komaki International Airport in April 1997.
TypeMcDonnell Douglas DC-10-40
OperatorJapan Airlines
ICAO flight No.JAL958
Call signJAPAN AIR 958
Flight originGimhae International Airport,
Busan, South Korea
DestinationNarita International Airport, Tokyo, Japan

On January 31, 2001, Japan Airlines Flight 907, a Boeing 747-400 en route from Haneda Airport, Japan, to Naha Airport, Okinawa, narrowly avoided a mid-air collision with Japan Airlines Flight 958, a McDonnell Douglas DC-10-40 en route from Gimhae International Airport, South Korea, to Narita International Airport, Japan. The event became known in Japan as the Japan Airlines near miss incident above Suruga Bay (日本航空機駿河湾上空ニアミス事故, Nihonkōkūki surugawan jōkū niamisu jiko).

The incident was attributed to errors made by Air Traffic Controller (ATC) trainee Hideki Hachitani (蜂谷 秀樹, Hachitani Hideki) and trainee supervisor Yasuko Momii (籾井 康子, Momii Yasuko). The incident caused Japanese authorities to call upon the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) to take measures to prevent similar incidents from occurring.

Flight information

The Boeing 747-446 Domestic, registration JA8904, was operating Flight 907 from Tokyo Haneda International Airport to Naha Airport with 411 passengers and 16 crew. The flight departed Haneda airport at 15:36 local time. Flight 907 was commanded by 40-year-old pilot Makoto Watanabe (渡辺 誠, Watanabe Makoto).

The McDonnell Douglas DC-10-40, registration JA8546, was operating Flight 958 from Gimhae International Airport to Narita International Airport with 237 passengers and 13 crew.[2] Flight 958 was commanded by 45-year-old pilot Tatsuyuki Akazawa (赤沢 達幸, Akazawa Tatsuyuki).

According to the flight plan, both aircraft were supposed to pass each other while 2,000 feet (600 m) apart.[3]

Mid-air incident

The mid-air incident occurred as flight attendants began to serve drinks onboard Flight 907.[4] JA8904's 'Traffic Collision Avoidance System (TCAS)' sounded 20 minutes after its departure[3] as the jet climbed towards 39,000 ft (12,000 m). The DC-10, JA8546, cruised at 37,000 ft (11,000 m).[2] The TCAS on both aircraft functioned correctly, a "CLIMB" instruction was annunciated for Flight 907, however the flight crew received contradicting instructions from the flight controller at the Tokyo Area Control Center in Tokorozawa, Saitama Prefecture. Flight 907 followed an order to descend issued by the flight controller while Flight 958 descended as instructed by the TCAS, meaning that the planes remained on a collision course.

The trainee for the aerospace sector, 26-year-old[5] Hideki Hachitani (蜂谷 秀樹, Hachitani Hideki),[6] handled ten other flights at the time of the near miss. Hachitani intended to tell Flight 958 to descend. Instead, at 15:54, he told Flight 907 to descend. When the trainee noticed that JAL 958 cruised at a level altitude instead of descending, the trainee asked JAL 958 to turn right; the message did not get through to the JAL 958 pilot. The trainee's supervisor, Yasuko Momii (籾井 康子, Momii Yasuko),[7] ordered "JAL 957" to climb, intending to tell JAL 907 to climb. There was not a JAL flight 957 in the sky at the moment of the incident, but it can be inferred that by "957" she meant flight 907.[2]

The aircraft avoided collision using evasive maneuvers once they were in visual proximity, and passed within about 135 metres (443 ft) of each other.[a][9] An unidentified passenger told NHK, "I have never seen a plane fly so close. I thought we were going to crash." Alex Turner, a passenger on Flight 907 and a student at Kadena High School, a school for American children with parents stationed at Kadena Air Base in Okinawa Prefecture, estimated that the avoidance maneuver lasted for two seconds.[3]

Seven passengers and two crew members of the 747 sustained serious injuries; additionally, 81 passengers and 10 crew members reported minor injuries. Some unbelted passengers, flight attendants, and drink carts hit the ceiling, dislodging some ceiling tiles.[4] The maneuver threw one boy across four rows of seats.[3] Most of the injuries to occupants consisted of bruising. The maneuvers broke the leg of a 54-year-old woman.[10][11] In addition, a drink cart spilled, scalding some passengers. No passengers on the DC-10 sustained injuries.[12] Flight 907, with the 747's cabin bearing minor damage, returned to Haneda, landing at 16:45.


JAL907 injury chart
JAL907 injury chart

By 18:00 on February 1, eight Flight 907 passengers remained hospitalized, while 22 injured passengers had been released. Two passengers remained hospitalized at Kamata General Hospital (蒲田総合病院), while two other passengers remained hospitalized at Ichikawa No. 2 Hospital (市川第2病院). In addition, the following hospitals each had one passenger remaining: Takano Hospital (タカノ病院), Kitasato University, Horinaka Hospital (堀中病院), and Tokyo Rosai Hospital (東京労災病院).[13] All injured passengers recovered.

JAL sent apology letters to the passengers on the 747; injured passengers directly received messages, and uninjured passengers received messages via the mail.[14]

In its report on the accident, published in July 2002, the Aircraft and Railway Accidents Investigation Commission called on the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) to make it clear that TCAS advisories should always take precedence over ATC instructions.[15] A similar recommendation was made three months later by Germany's accident investigation body (the BFU) in light of the Überlingen mid-air collision.[16] ICAO accepted these recommendations and amended its regulations in November 2003.[17][18]

Flight numbers 907 and 958 are still used by Japan Airlines for the same respective routes today, but are operated with a Boeing 777 and Boeing 737, respectively.

Criminal investigation and trial

The Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department and Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport investigated the incident.[9]

In May 2003, Tokyo police filed an investigative report concerning Hideki Hachitani (ATC trainee), Yasuko Momii (ATC Supervisor), and Makoto Watanabe (pilot of flight 907), suspecting them of professional negligence. In March 2004, prosecutors indicted Hachitani and Momii for professional negligence.[19]

Hachitani, then 30 years old, and Momii, then 35 years old, pleaded not guilty to the charges at Tokyo District Court in 2004.[20] During the same year, the lawyer for Hachitani and Momii said that the pilots of the aircraft bore the responsibility for the near miss.[21]

By November 16, 2005, 12 trials had been held since the initial hearing on September 9, 2004. The prosecution argued that the two defendants neglected to provide proper separation for the two aircraft, the instructions issued were inappropriate, and that the supervisor failed to correct the trainee. The defense argued that the lack of separation would not immediately have led to a near miss, that the instructions issued were appropriate, that the TCAS procedure was not proper, and that the Computer Navigation Fix (CNF) had faulty data.[22]

In 2006, prosecutors asked for Hachitani, then 31, to be sentenced to ten years in prison and for Momii, then 37, to be sentenced to 15 years in prison.[23] On March 20, 2006, the court ruled that Hachitani and Momii were not guilty of the charge.[6][24] The court stated that Hachitani could not have foreseen the accident and that the mixup of the flight numbers did not have a causal relationship with the accident. Hisaharu Yasui, the presiding judge, said that prosecuting controllers and pilots would be "unsuitable" in this case.[25] The Tokyo District Public Prosecutor's Office filed an appeal with the Tokyo High Court on March 31. During the same year, the Japanese government agreed to pay Japan Airlines and Tokio Marine & Nichido Fire Insurance a total of ¥82.4 million to compensate for the near miss (equivalent to ¥86 million in 2019).[26]

On April 11, 2008, on appeal, a higher court overturned the decision and found Hachitani and Momii guilty. The presiding judge, Masaharu Suda (須田 賢, Suda Masaharu), sentenced Hachitani, then 33, to 12 months imprisonment, and Momii, then 39, to 18 months imprisonment, with both sentences suspended for 3 years.[27] The lawyers representing the controllers appealed, but the convictions were upheld on October 26, 2010, by the Supreme Court.[28][29]

In popular culture

The events of the incident are documented in the final season 3 episode of the Discovery Channel documentary Aircrash Confidential.[30] The episode was first aired on 20 August 2018.

It was also briefly mentioned in the Air Crash Investigation (also known as Mayday in other countries) episode, "Deadly Crossroads".

See also


  1. ^ The closest passing distance was estimated by the investigation team from an analysis of the TCAS logs.[8]


  1. ^ a b Tomita, Hiroaki (Investigator General, Aircraft and Railway Accidents Investigation Commission). "Accident Investigation into a Near Mid-Air Collision Archived December 10, 2015, at the Wayback Machine." June 12, 2005 (Queenstown, New Zealand).
  2. ^ a b c "Blame pinned on air traffic controllers[permanent dead link]." Japan Times. Saturday February 3, 2001. Retrieved on December 11, 2009.
  3. ^ a b c d Childs, Jan Wesner (February 2, 2001). "Kadena High students shaken by near-miss during flight over Japan". Stars and Stripes. Archived from the original (Web) on April 22, 2009. Retrieved December 11, 2009.
  4. ^ a b "JAL planes almost collide Archived January 5, 2008, at the Wayback Machine," Yomiuri Shimbun. Retrieved on December 11, 2009.
  5. ^ "Controllers blamed for near-miss." BBC. Friday February 2, 2001. Retrieved on December 11, 2009.
  6. ^ a b "Court finds air traffic controllers not guilty over 2001 near miss." Kyodo World News Service.
  7. ^ "Court clears air controllers in near miss". Yomiuri Shimbun, March 21, 2006.
  8. ^ Final report section 3.2.6
  9. ^ a b Schaefer, Gary (February 3, 2001). "Japanese police pursuing possibility of negligence in planes' near collision". Stars and Stripes. The Associated Press. Archived from the original (Web) on January 5, 2008.
  10. ^ "Shigeyoshi Kimura, Associated Press Writer (January 31, 2001). "At least 35 airline passengers injured in near miss".
  11. ^ "Close Call For JAL Jets Archived May 18, 2013, at the Wayback Machine." CBS News. January 31, 2001. Retrieved on December 11, 2009.
  12. ^ "Signals blamed for near collision." BBC. Thursday February 1, 2001. Retrieved on December 11, 2009.
  13. ^ "JL907便事故について" (Japanese). Japan Airlines. Retrieved on December 25, 2008.
  14. ^ "Japan Airlines apologises to near-miss victims." Airline Industry Information. February 9, 2001. Retrieved on December 11, 2009.
  15. ^ "report outline". International Civil Aviation Organization. Archived from the original on September 29, 2007. Retrieved January 22, 2007.
  16. ^ "Investigation Report AX001-1-2" (PDF). German Federal Bureau of Aircraft Accidents Investigation. May 2, 2004. p. 111. Archived (PDF) from the original on January 23, 2007. Retrieved January 17, 2007.
  17. ^ Flight Safety Digest, March 2004[page needed]
  18. ^ "Deadly Crossroads," Mayday[full citation needed]
  19. ^ "Not guilty verdict revoked, 2 air controllers given suspended sentences|date=February 20, 2009." Associated Press. April 11, 2008. Retrieved on December 11, 2009.
  20. ^ "2 air controllers in 2001 JAL near-miss accident plead not guilty.." Japan Transportation Scan. September 9, 2004. Retrieved on December 11, 2009.
  21. ^ "2 air-traffic controllers blame JAL pilots for near-miss.." Asia Africa Intelligence Wire. September 10, 2004. Retrieved on December 11, 2009.
  22. ^ "REPORT OF THE JAPAN AIR TRAFFIC CONTROLLERS' ASSOCIATIONS (JFATCA) To The 22nd IFATCA Asia Pacific Regional Meeting, Fukuoka, Japan (16-18 November 2005)[permanent dead link]." Air Traffic Control Association Japan. Retrieved July 17, 2008.[dead link]
  23. ^ "Air traffic controllers face prison terms over 2001 near miss.." Japan Transportation Scan.
  24. ^ "Court finds air traffic controllers not guilty over 2001 near miss[permanent dead link]." Japan Today.
  25. ^ "'N' FORMATION Archived October 14, 2008, at the Wayback Machine." Official Magazine of the New Zealand Air Line Pilots' Association. Issue 7. March 2006. Retrieved on December 11, 2009.
  26. ^ "State to pay for '01 JAL near miss Archived February 23, 2009, at the Wayback Machine." The Japan Times. Saturday April 1, 2006. Retrieved on December 11, 2009.
  27. ^ "Not guilty verdict revoked, 2 air controllers given suspended sentences+." Kyodo News.[dead link]
  28. ^ "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on February 6, 2013. Retrieved July 9, 2014.((cite web)): CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  29. ^ "Air traffic controllers' guilty verdicts final". The Japan Times. December 9, 2010.
  30. ^ Barrett, Mathew; Griffiths, Alan; McNab, David; et al. (2011). Prince, Stephen; Gilbert, Roy (eds.). Aircrash Confidential (TV Documentary) (Flying Blind ed.). Discovery Channel: MMXI World Media Rights Limited; WMR Productions; IMG Entertainment.