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2 Planes Collide at Japan Airport Amid Heavy Snow, Weeks After Tokyo Episode

by Staff

One plane clipped another at an airport on Japan’s snowy northern island of Hokkaido on Tuesday, according to the airlines involved, just weeks after a deadly runway blaze in Tokyo.

Nobody was injured in the episode on Tuesday, which involved planes belonging to Korean Air and Cathay Pacific. It happened at around 5:30 p.m. local time at New Chitose Airport, according to NHK, Japan’s public broadcaster. Footage on NHK of the airport — which had warned earlier in the day of delays and cancellations because of heavy snow — showed a thick coating on the ground.

Cathay Pacific said that its aircraft had been “struck by a Korean Air A330, which was taxiing past,” adding in a statement that its jet was parked and empty of customers and crew at the time.

Korean Air confirmed that its jet “came into contact” with the Cathay aircraft during pushback.

“There were no injuries and the airline is cooperating with all relevant authorities,” Korean Air said in a statement.

The Korean Air plane was bound for Seoul, with 289 passengers and crew aboard, according to the news agency Kyodo. The agency reported that the A330, an Airbus, had sustained damage to the left wing, while Cathay’s Boeing 777-300 was damaged near its right tail.

NHK reported that a vehicle towing the Korean Air plane had skidded on the snowy tarmac, causing the two planes to touch — the second impact between planes to take place at a Japanese airport this month. On Jan. 2, a Japan Airlines plane erupted in flames after colliding with a Coast Guard aircraft as it was landing in Tokyo. Five crew members on the Coast Guard jet were killed; all 367 passengers and 12 crew aboard the Japan Airlines plane safely evacuated.

Investigators are still working to establish what caused that disaster. In a transcript of communications between the air traffic control tower and both the Japan Airlines jet and the Coast Guard plane, it appeared that the commercial flight had been given permission to land while the Coast Guard aircraft had been told to “taxi to holding point” next to the runway.

But Kathleen Bangs, an aviation expert and a former commercial airline pilot, said it would be a mistake to compare the two incidents.

The Tokyo episode appeared to have involved a runway incursion — when someone is on the runway, a risky patch of ground with constant high-speed movement, who isn’t supposed to be — while Tuesday’s was a low-speed, wingtip clipping essentially at the gate, she said.

“A completely different situation,” she said of the episode in Hokkaido, adding that episodes like Tuesday’s “are not rare.”

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