All Nippon Airways Flight 61

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All Nippon Airways Flight 61
JA8966, the aircraft in the hijacking attempt
Hijacking summary
Date July 23, 1999
Summary Hijacking
Site near Tokyo, Japan
Passengers 503
Crew 14
Injuries (non-fatal) 0
Fatalities 1 (Captain)
Survivors 516
Aircraft type Boeing 747-481D
Operator All Nippon Airways
Registration JA8966

On July 23, 1999, an All Nippon Airways Boeing 747-481D with 503 passengers, including 14 children and 14 crew members on board, took off from Tokyo International Airport (Haneda Airport) in Ota, Tokyo, Japan and was en route to New Chitose Airport in Chitose, Japan, near Sapporo when it was hijacked by Yuji Nishizawa (西沢 裕司 Nishizawa Yūji?).

Incident[edit]

About 25 minutes after takeoff,[1] Nishizawa used a kitchen knife, 20 centimetres (7.9 in) long,[2] to force a flight attendant to allow him access into the cockpit. He then forced 34-year-old co-pilot Kazuyuki Koga (古賀 和幸 Koga Kazuyuki?) out, remaining in the cockpit with captain Naoyuki Nagashima (長島 直之 Nagashima Naoyuki?), who managed to notify ATC about the hijacking. Nishizawa stabbed Nagashima in the chest and took control of the plane, at one point descending to an altitude of 300 meters.

At 12:09 P.M., crew members managed to subdue Nishizawa, and co-pilot Koga got back into the cockpit, telling the air traffic controllers, "It's an emergency. The captain was stabbed. Prepare an ambulance." The plane made an emergency landing at Haneda Airport at 12:14 P.M. and Nishizawa was immediately arrested. A doctor confirmed the death of Nagashima, of Yokohama, shortly after the plane landed. Nishizawa was charged with murder.

Security Exploit[edit]

Nishizawa had smuggled the knife aboard the aircraft by exploiting a flaw in the security procedures at Haneda. He had discovered that it was possible, after passing the boarding security check, to access the service counter for retrieving special checked baggage from arriving flights. He thus boarded a round trip flight from Tokyo to Osaka with the knife in his checked baggage, upon return to Tokyo immediately checked in to Flight 61 and passed security, retrieved his baggage from the flight from Osaka, and carried the knife aboard Flight 61.

He had originally planned to carry out the hijacking one day earlier, on July 22. He had told his parents and psychiatrist that he was traveling alone to Hokkaido, but his parents had discovered his bags containing multiple airline tickets and the knife, causing him to delay his plans for one day. Nishizawa had booked tickets on multiple departing flights: in addition to Flight 61 for New Chitose, he had tickets for ANA Flight 083 for Naha which left ten minutes earlier than Flight 61, and Flight 851 for Hakodate.

Nishizawa had discovered the security flaw a month before the hijacking, and after confirming it on a round-trip flight to Kumamoto, sent letters to the Ministry of Transport, All Nippon Airways, and other agencies, in addition to major newspapers, notifying them of it. Additionally, he requested employment by the airport as a security guard. The airport made one telephone call in response, but no further action was taken until after the hijacking, when procedures were revised comprehensively throughout Japan's airports, eliminating the security flaw.

Aftermath[edit]

Nishizawa, born September 8, 1970 in Tokyo was, at the time, a 28-year-old unemployed man from the ward of Edogawa in Tokyo. During investigation, it was revealed that Nishizawa had taken a large dose of SSRI medication (SSRI (Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors) are antidepressants used in the treatment of depression) before the episode, and he said that he hijacked the plane because he wanted to fly it under the Rainbow Bridge in Tokyo. On March 23, 2005, he was found guilty but of unsound mind, thus was only partly responsible for his actions. Presiding judge Hisaharu Yasui handed Nishizawa a life sentence in 2005.[3]

Due to issues of criminal insanity, the mass media had not initially revealed Nishizawa's name when reporting on the case. However, on July 27 the Sankei Shimbun published his name and photograph, with the claim that the incident was a "serious crime". Following this case, the practice of publishing suspects' names in similar circumstances increased in Japanese tabloids and news weeklies, and eventually, national newspapers and news agencies.

The family of Nagashima sued All Nippon Airways, the Japanese state and Nishizawa's family, over Nagashima's death, alleging that poor security at the airport and aboard the plane led to the incident.[4] A settlement with undisclosed terms was reached on December 21, 2007.[5]

The flight number is still in use, and on the same route, but is now flown by a Boeing 777-300.[6]

See also[edit]

References[edit]