japan fire plane
© KYODOFILE PHOTO: A Japan Airlines plane burning at Tokyo's Haneda Airport on Tuesday evening
A Japan Airlines jet burst into flames on a runway at Tokyo's Haneda Airport on Tuesday after a collision on the ground with a Japan Coast Guard plane.

JAL said that 367 passengers and 12 crew members were on board the plane, an Airbus A350, and that they were all able to evacuate safely, with 15 people sustaining injuries. Five of the six people on the coast guard plane died, with the captain sustaining severe injuries.

The JAL plane was arriving from New Chitose Airport in Hokkaido, NHK reported, adding that the collision occurred after the JAL plane landed on runway C.

The coast guard aircraft was on a mission to fly to a base in Niigata Prefecture carrying supplies to support the area affected by the 7.6 magnitude earthquake that hit central Japan on Monday. The coast guard aircraft was moving on the runway when it collided with the JAL plane.

The coast guard said the captain, Genki Miyamoto, 39, reported to the coast guard at around 5:55 p.m. that the aircraft had "exploded" on the Haneda runway and that he had managed to escape.

Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said it was "very unfortunate" that the five coast guard members died in the crash, offering his sincere condolences and saying that he has great respect for their strong sense of duty to help victims of the earthquake.

The five members who died in the accident were Nobuyuki Tahara, 41, Yoshiki Ishida, 27, Wataru Tatewaki, 39, Makoto Uno, 47, and Shigeaki Kato, 56.

NHK footage showed flames emerging from near the engines of the plane and firefighters battling the blaze. Although some 70 fire trucks were dispatched after the incident, which occurred at 5:47 p.m., the plane was almost entirely engulfed in flames as of 6:30 p.m., footage showed.

"I felt a bump, like the aircraft was colliding with something when touching down," one of the passengers said. I saw a spark outside the window and the cabin was filled with gas and smoke."

Speaking to reporters on Tuesday evening, officials from the transport ministry and coast guard said they were still in the process of confirming specific flight control communications between the JAL plane, the coast guard aircraft and air traffic controllers.

"I have never heard of such a major collision at an airport in Japan," said Yoshitomo Aoki, an aviation analyst.

"The world's air traffic control systems are designed to prevent accidents as long as air traffic controllers at airports issue correct instructions and pilots follow them."

All four of Haneda's runways were shut down at around 6 p.m. but the airport was able to reopen all but runway C later on Tuesday.

Arriving flights were diverted to airports across the country, including Narita Airport in Chiba Prefecture, Chubu Centrair Airport near Nagoya and Kansai Airport in Osaka Prefecture, according to the Flightradar24 app.

The incident came during one of the busiest travel periods of the year, with millions of Japanese traveling to and from their hometowns for the New Year's holidays.

Haneda is Japan's busiest airport, serving nearly 90 million passengers in 2019, prior to the outbreak of COVID-19. It's a hub for Japan Airlines, All Nippon Airways and several smaller airlines.

Japan's aviation sector has a strong safety record, with no fatal incidents involving a commercial aircraft this century.

Tuesday's collision is also the first serious incident involving an Airbus A350, which entered service in 2015.

The A350 is JAL's only Airbus plane in operation, with 16 in its current fleet.