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HOME  > Past issues  > 2024 February 14 - 20  > Unlike Japan, international standards for air accident investigations focuses on prevention of recurrence
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2024 February 14 - 20 [SOCIAL ISSUES]

Unlike Japan, international standards for air accident investigations focuses on prevention of recurrence

February 20, 2024

It is considered “normal” among foreign airlines that they will order their pilots to leave Japan immediately when their pilots are involved in an accident or safety-related problem in Japan. “Because, it is highly likely that these pilots will be made into a scapegoat and seen as guilty,” said the Secretary General of the Japan Federation of Civil Aviation Workers’ Unions for Air Safety (JFAS), Takahashi Takuya (pilot in command).

JFAS was founded in 1966, triggered by a series of serious aircraft accidents. It is composed of a variety of labor unions representing aviation workers in the public and private sectors, such as pilots, flight attendants, mechanics, ground handlers, air traffic controllers, and meteorological agency officials.

On the day following a fatal collision between a Japan Airlines passenger jet and a Japan Coast Guard aircraft on January 2 at Tokyo’s Haneda Airport, JFAS issued a statement demanding that investigations be conducted for preventing a recurrence of a similar accident. On February 8, the organization held a press conference to this effect at the Japan National Press Club.

A JFAS member union, which organizes air traffic controllers and other workers at the Land and Transport Ministry, has claimed that given that each air traffic controller handles up to 10 airplanes at the same time, human error cannot be avoided, and has long called for a sufficient increase in the number of flight controllers.

The international standards for aircraft accident investigations are set under a document attached to the treaty on the establishment of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), a specialized UN agency.

The document states that the purpose of investigating an aircraft accident or incident is “the prevention of accidents and incidents” and that “it is not the purpose of such an investigation to apportion blame or liability.” It prohibits testimonies and other records collected from being used for purposes other than accident investigations. It requires that an accident investigation authority is set up as an independent actor and separated from criminal investigations.

The Japanese government has submitted to ICAO a document proclaiming that Japan performs accident investigations in a different way from the UN agency-set standards.

In Japan, when an aircraft accident occurs, investigations will be conducted by the Transport Ministry’s accident investigation commission, the Japan Transport Safety Board (JTSB). However, as JTSB exchanged with the police a memorandum regarding cooperation in police investigations, the police have a high probability of gaining access to statements taken by JTSB from persons concerned.

JFAS Secretary General Takahashi said, “With fear of becoming a target of criminal investigations, people involved in an accident can’t talk freely about what happens. This inevitably hampers efforts to determine the cause of the accident.”

JFAS criticizes Japan’s accident investigation framework as a system to draw a curtain on an accident by incriminating individuals.

Past related articles:
> Union calls on gov’t to increase number of flight controllers based on lessons learned from fatal Haneda Airport collision [February 8 & 10, 2024]
> Union in talks with JCP Takahashi calls for investigation of Haneda Airport collision incident based on Chicago Convention [January 10, 2024]
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