Canadian Pacific Air Lines Flight 402

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Canadian Pacific Airlines Flight 402
A Douglas DC-8-43 of Canadian Pacific Airlines, similar to the accident aircraft
Accident summary
Date March 4, 1966
Summary Pilot error
Site Tokyo, Japan
35°32′16″N 139°48′23″E / 35.5377°N 139.8065°E / 35.5377; 139.8065Coordinates: 35°32′16″N 139°48′23″E / 35.5377°N 139.8065°E / 35.5377; 139.8065
Passengers 62
Crew 10
Fatalities 64
Survivors 8
Aircraft type Douglas DC-8-43
Aircraft name Empress of Edmonton
Operator Canadian Pacific Air Lines
Registration CF-CPK
Flight origin Kai Tak International Airport, Hong Kong
Stopover Haneda International Airport, Tokyo, Japan
Destination Vancouver Int'l Airport, British Columbia, Canada

On March 4, 1966, Canadian Pacific Air Lines Flight 402 (CP402), struck the approach lights and a seawall during a night landing attempt in poor visibility at Tokyo International Airport in Japan. Of the 62 passengers and 10 crew, only 8 passengers survived. An American Broadcasting Company news vice-president who had been touring the network's Asian bureaux was among the 64 fatalities.

Course of events[edit]

The aircraft involved was a McDonnell Douglas DC-8-43, c/n 45761/237, delivered to the airline on October 14, 1965.

Flight 402 was a Hong Kong to Tokyo to Vancouver flight, which took off at 16:14 Japan Time from Kai Tak International Airport on the first leg of the journey. The flight was in a holding pattern for almost one hour, waiting for visibility at the destination to improve from landing minima. The tower controller cleared the flight for an instrument approach when visibility improved, but the crew had to abort the approach when visibility dropped again. At 20:05 local time, the pilot radioed the control tower that he was diverting to Taiwan, and was told the visibility at the airport had increased above minimums again to five-eighths of a mile. The pilot then decided to make another approach before diverting.

The ground-controlled approach was normal until the aircraft was seen on the precision approach radar suddenly descending below the glide slope. At 850 m (2,800 ft) from the runway threshold, the aircraft's landing gear struck part of the approach lighting system. The pilot lost control of the aircraft as it hit several more obstructions, including the 2 m (7 ft) seawall at the runway threshold, leaving a half mile long trail of burning wreckage on the airfield.

Investigation[edit]

The Japanese government-appointed investigation team concluded in their report, issued two years later, that there was no fault in the airport's control tower. They stated the cause was pilot error, while acknowledging that poor visibility could have caused an optical illusion that confused the pilot. The probable cause statement was that the "Pilot misjudged landing approach under unusually difficult weather conditions."

Cluster of crashes in Japan[edit]

This accident was one of five fatal aircraft disasters—four commercial and one military—in Japan in 1966. Less than 24 hours later, BOAC Flight 911, a Boeing 707, taxied past the still smoldering wreckage of the DC-8, then broke up in flight shortly after departure when it encountered extreme clear-air turbulence in the lee of Mount Fuji while flying the opposite direction towards Hong Kong, killing all 124 passengers and crew. This brought the total death toll from both accidents in the Tokyo area to 188, then a record for a single day.

Less than a month before, All Nippon Airways Flight 60, a Boeing 727, crashed into Tokyo Bay while on approach to land at the same airport, killing all 133 aboard. In addition, two other incidents occurred, on August 26 and November 13. The combined effect of these five accidents shook public confidence in commercial aviation in Japan, and both Japan Air Lines and All Nippon Airways were forced to cut back some domestic service due to reduced demand.

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