Fire on Japan Airlines plane: Investigators are considering the possibility of human error

How the crash happened with five dead - What the radio conversations recorded

Screenshot 6 PLANE, fire

Japanese police are investigating whether the collision between two planes at Tokyo's Haneda airport on Tuesday, which killed five people, was due to human error.

The 379 passengers and crew of flight JAL516 managed to get off the plane after it collided during landing with a smaller Japanese coast guard aircraft that was preparing to take off.

The collision caused an explosion and the Japan Airlines Airbus caught fire. It was completely destroyed after all passengers and 12 crew members were removed. It took eight hours to extinguish the fire, according to the fire department.

Five of the six people on board the Coast Guard aircraft were killed, with the pilot able to escape, although seriously injured.

The plane was preparing to take off to deliver emergency supplies to those affected by Monday's earthquake in Ishikawa Prefecture.

"Japan 516, continue approach"

Was the Japan Airlines Airbus cleared to land? When asked about this during a press conference yesterday evening, Tuesday, an airline official replied: "Based on what we understand, (permission) had been given."

Radio conversations between the control tower and the pilots of flight JAL516, seen by AFP via the website, appear to confirm this.

"Japan 516, continue approach," an air traffic controller said yesterday at 17:43 (local time, 10:43 Greek time), that is, four minutes before the collision.

The control tower should have asked the coast guard aircraft to wait on the runway, NHK broadcaster said, citing a source at Japan's transport ministry. But according to a Coast Guard official, shortly before the crash the pilot of the Coast Guard plane said he had been cleared to take off.

Japan Airlines, the coast guard and the transport ministry are currently refusing to make further official comments on the case.

The Tokyo Metropolitan Police is investigating whether the accident was caused by human negligence, as reported by Japanese media, including the Kyodo news agency and Nikkei Asia.

A police spokesman said a special unit has been set up to investigate the runway and plans to take statements from those involved.

"There is a high possibility that it was human error," said Hiroyuki Kobayashi, a former JAL pilot. "Normally only one aircraft is allowed to enter the runway, but despite being cleared to land, the Coast Guard aircraft was on the runway," he added.

In addition, a team of French experts from the Civil Aviation Research and Analysis Agency (BEA) is expected in Japan today to contribute to the investigation into the crash. The French BEA participates in the technical investigations of accidents that occur abroad, as an agency of the country of manufacture of the aircraft.

And Airbus said it would send a team of experts to offer "technical assistance" to Japan's Transportation Safety Board (JTSB), which is in charge of the investigation.

Problems remain in Haneda

Firefighters and search teams today examined the charred wreckage of a Coast Guard aircraft, a Dash 8, which remains on the runway at Haneda Airport.

A few hundred meters away is the wreckage of the Japan Airlines plane.

Domestic flights at Haneda Airport were canceled yesterday after the crash, but most international flights continued to operate.

Today, problems remain in the operation of the airport, mainly in terms of domestic flights, with around 70 canceled in the morning.