Japan Plane Fire: How Turning Of Tokyo-Osaka Flight Into Burning Pyre For 520 Passengers Saved Lives 38 Years Later

Japan had its worst plane accident in 1985 when Japan Air Lines Flight 123 flying from Tokyo to Osaka crashed in the Gunma mountain region killing all 520 passengers and crew onboard. Ranked among the world’s most fatal plane accidents, the incident paved the way for stricter audits and a culture of safety among Japanese crew and passengers as well.

Yesterday, another Airbus A350 took off from Shin-Chitose Airport in Hokkaido. However, it collided with a smaller Coast Guard aircraft in the air leading to the death of five onboard the Coast Guard plane. But in a miraculous effort, the Airbus crew managed to save all 379 people onboard the flight with minor injuries to around 17 passengers. The crew managed to keep passengers calm avoiding any panic situation and evacuated the planes within two minutes saving hundreds of lives. However, the credit goes to the culture of safety and training adopted by Japan after the 1985 crash as well as to modern train designs to slow down the fire spreading.

There were two major plane accidents in 1985 – one in Japan and another at Manchester Airport in which 55 people were killed after a British Airtours flight caught fire when taking off. These incidents forced a rethink of aircraft safety.

According to new safety rules, the aircraft designers have to show that a plane can be evacuated only in 90 seconds with only 50% of exits available. Also, since the plane has highly combustible fuel and highly flammable materials on board, the new designs and materials used are meant to slow down the spread of the fire. This was one of the main reasons that despite catching fire mid-air, the plane landed safely and passengers were evacuated safely. Also, under the new design, the emergency exits are easily accessible and fitted with lights that easily indicate their location even in case of smoke-filled chambers.

The credit goes to the training of the Japanese crew for keeping calm and guiding the passengers towards safety. Usually, it takes around three minutes for the rescue and firefighting units at airports to respond to distress calls but since the crew alerted the ATC and kept passengers calm helped in quick evacuation to avoid any casualties.

According to reports, Japanese crews are highly trained to follow the standard operation procedures in case of any emergency and that was proven during yesterday’s fire accident that could have gone fatal.

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