Thursday, March 18, 2010

JL657: Where is the runway?

There was an unacceptable incident involving a Japan Airlines 767-300 at Kaohsiung Airport on March 6 2010. The JAL pilots had to go around because the airport forgot to turn on the runway lights!

The JAL flight involved was JL657 from Tokyo Narita (NRT) to Kaohsiung (KHH). The 767-300, registration JA8987, was carrying 230 passengers and crew members. The flight was on approach to KHH and was cleared to land at 22:07. There were two air traffic controllers "on duty" but one decided to take a bathroom break and the other answered a phone call after they issued the landing clearance. At 22:10, JL657 was at about 300 feet and around 1nm away from touchdown but the pilots still could not see the runway and they decided execute the go-around procedure. Later the tower controllers discovered that they had forgotten to turn on the runway lights. They switched them back on and directed JL657 to land safely 15 minutes later. And of course, the two controllers are now suspended and will face disciplinary action.

So why was the lights off? Cost saving! Due to low number of flights at night, genius at KHH decided to save energy/money by switching the runway lights off when it's not in use. This is definitely unacceptable! As expected, JAL does not accept the explanation either. According to JAL, Taiwan's CAA requires runway lights to be active from sunset to sunrise or when visibility falls below 3200 meters in daylight. This is clearly a rule violation which puts passengers at risk!

Even though apparently JAL was not at fault, there is still at least one thing JAL should learn from this incident: never forgo flight safety. JAL is undergoing series of cost cutting and they should never ever lower their safety standards because of cost cutting. You can see what happens when the cost cutting has gone too far from this incident.

Now the standard flight load paragraph. The JAL 767 has the A33 configuration. There are 232 seats onboard (30C 202Y). And there were 230 people onboard, so the flight was almost full! WOW The flight load is around 95% (assuming 10 crew members based on previous TPE incident data, which carried only 33 passengers)! Hopefully most of the business class passengers are paid and not op-up/upgrade ones. This is indeed some good news or maybe the only good news coming out from this report.

Source: Aviation Herald

Other recent incidents:
Incident: JL510 emergency stop at Haneda
Incident: JL1183 emergency landing at Haneda
Incident: JL2008 emergency landing


  1. but remember the explosion or match incident where they were only carrying 30 passengers on a TPE-KIX or KIX-TPE flight ;)

  2. No! There were 33 passengers on that flight (click the TPE incident data link in the post). That's 10% more than what you said :P