Incident at Japanese Airport as Korean Air Airliner Makes Contact with Empty Cathay Pacific Plane During Snowy Taxiing
In an occurrence at New Chitose Airport serving Sapporo in northern Japan, a Korean Air airliner reportedly made contact with an unoccupied Cathay Pacific plane while taxiing on a snow-affected runway. Both airlines have affirmed that no injuries were reported in the incident. The event unfolds just two weeks after a near-catastrophic collision at Tokyo’s Haneda Airport involving a Japan Airlines aircraft and a smaller coast guard plane.
Cathay Pacific, based in Hong Kong, stated, “Our aircraft, which was stationary at the time with no customers nor crew onboard, was struck by a Korean Air A330 which was taxiing past.”
Korean Air also verified that there were no injuries among the 276 passengers and 13 crew onboard its Airbus A330-300. The aircraft was scheduled to depart for Seoul’s Incheon International Airport from New Chitose, located on the northern Japanese island of Hokkaido.
The airline explained that the incident occurred at 5:35 pm Japanese time (0835 GMT) during pushback when a third-party ground handler vehicle slipped due to heavy snow.
Breaking: a Korean Airlines plane accidentally hit a parked Cathay Pacific plane while preparing for takeoff at Sapporo's New Chitose Airport. No injuries have been reported. pic.twitter.com/5VGfB1PP1b
— Jeffrey J. Hall 🇯🇵🇺🇸 (@mrjeffu) January 16, 2024
The airline has confirmed no injuries, and full cooperation with relevant authorities is underway,” stated the carrier.
An airport operator spokesperson acknowledged the “contact” between the two planes to AFP but refrained from providing additional details, including the accident’s cause.
Both airlines chose not to disclose the extent of the damage, emphasizing the need to reaccommodate their passengers on alternative flights. NHK footage revealed a snow-covered Korean Air plane with wing damage, indicating a broken wing tip. The rear section of Cathay’s aircraft was also reportedly damaged.
While airport firefighters were on standby, no oil leaks or fires were confirmed, according to Hokkaido Cultural Broadcasting.
Recent days in Hokkaido have seen the region affected by a cold front, resulting in heavy snow warnings and the cancellation of 46 flights on Tuesday.
The incident follows a January 2 collision at Tokyo’s Haneda Airport involving a Japan Airlines Airbus and a smaller coast guard plane, narrowly escaping a catastrophic outcome. In that event, the Japanese government announced heightened air traffic control protocols, requiring constant monitoring of a system alerting control towers to runway incursions. Controllers are now prohibited from informing planes of their position in the take-off queue to avoid misunderstandings.
Transport Minister Tetsuo Saito emphasized the mission to restore public confidence in aviation as a mode of public transport. The ministry also pledged to establish an expert panel to explore additional safety improvements.
A transcript released by the ministry indicated that the JAL plane was cleared to land, while the coast guard plane was instructed to halt before the runway. Despite being informed it was “No.1” in line for take-off, the coast guard pilot, the sole survivor, believed he had clearance to move onto the runway, where the aircraft stood for approximately 40 seconds before the collision.
Over the decade leading to 2023, the Japan Transport Safety Board reported at least 23 “serious incidents” risking runway collisions, with air traffic control errors suspected in five cases, according to the Asahi newspaper.