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    Into you like a train

    Apparently miffed by all the attention the rail system has gotten this week, the air system has stepped up to the plate. Happily, if merely fortuitously, it hasn’t killed 100 people in the process. Note that this time it wasn’t poor JAL’s fault that it was involved:

    At 9:40 p.m., 29 April, a JAL jet landed, per instructions, on Haneda Airport’s Runway A, which had been closed for inspection and repairs. Another JAL jet was in the middle of descending toward Runway A and was forced to change course when the mistake was realized in the control tower several minutes later. According to the Ministry of Land, Transportation, and Infrastructure, the source of the error was that the controller on duty forgot that the runway was closed and therefore gave incorrect instructions. The Ministry has launched an investigation because of the possibility that the error could have led to a major accident.

    The controller is lucky that he made his screw-up when he did; the construction on the runway was set to begin at 11 p.m., an hour and change later. He’s also lucky that the plane that landed on it, an Airbus 300, was carrying only 51 passengers and crew. The plane that was diverted was a Boeing 777 with 161 aboard; it reascended and landed 10 minutes later.

    Added on 1 May: Good grief.

    The air traffic controller has told the ministry’s Haneda Airport office that he had forgotten that the runway was closed. Another 17 controllers on duty at the time also forgot about the closure of the runway even though all controllers working at the airport had been notified in advance.

    The ministry was apologetic about the incident. “I express my apologies from the bottom of my heart for causing anxiety to the public,” Yoshinori Furukawa, director of the ministry’s Air Traffic Control Division, said at a news conference on Saturday.

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