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Air Force admits mistake in air traffic control near mishap

Date Posted: 2005-06-04

The US military has admitted its air traffic controllers were responsible for a near collision between a Japan Air Lines commercial jet and an American fighter plane in November 2003.

An investigation by the Land, Infrastructure and Transport Ministry’s Aircraft and Railway Accidents Investigation Commission is now complete, and its report shows the F-15 jet fighter flew close to the JAL aircraft after receiving wrong instructions from Kadena Air Base air traffic controllers. The JAL aircraft was preparing to land at Naha International Airport when the military plane flew to within 500 meters. The investigators say it was not a “dangerous near miss” because there was a reasonable separation between the planes in the November 5th incident.

Japan Air Lines, thinking the incident could have been serious, reported the close call to the Transport Ministry several days later. The investigators met with the American military leaders, who confirmed its air traffic controllers had made a mistake. Japanese officials say it is highly unusual that the Americans ever admit to making a mistake.

The JAL aircraft’s captain saw the fighter approach on his left side, and was able to avoid a collision after his Traffic Alert and Collision Avoidance System activated, then ordered the jetliner to immediately descend.

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