Japan Airlines Flight 123

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Japan Airlines Flight 123
Japan Airlines JA8119.jpg
JA8119, the aircraft involved in the accident, at Haneda Airport in 1984, one year before the crash
DateAugust 12, 1985
SummaryIn-flight structural failure due to improper maintenance, leading to rapid decompression, destruction of control systems and loss of control
SiteMount Takamagahara
Coordinates: 36°0′5″N 138°41′38″E / 36.00139°N 138.69389°E / 36.00139; 138.69389
Aircraft typeBoeing 747-146SR
OperatorJapan Airlines
IATA flight No.JL123
ICAO flight No.JAL123
Call signJAPAN AIR 123
Flight originTokyo International Airport
DestinationOsaka International Airport

Japan Airlines Flight 123 was a scheduled domestic Japan Airlines passenger flight from Tokyo's Haneda Airport to Osaka International Airport, Japan. On August 12, 1985, a Boeing 747SR operating this route suffered a sudden decompression twelve minutes into the flight and crashed in the area of Mount Takamagahara, Ueno, Gunma Prefecture, 100 kilometres (62 miles; 54 nautical miles) from Tokyo thirty-two minutes later. The crash site was on Osutaka Ridge, near Mount Osutaka.

Japan's Aircraft Accident Investigation Commission officially concluded that the rapid decompression was caused by a faulty repair by Boeing technicians after a tailstrike incident during a landing at Osaka Airport in 1978. The rear bulkhead of the plane had been repaired with an improperly installed doubler plate, compromising the plane's airworthiness. Cabin pressurization continued to expand and contract the improperly repaired bulkhead until the day of the accident, when the faulty repair failed, causing a rapid decompression that ripped off a large portion of the tail and caused the loss of hydraulic controls to the entire plane.

The aircraft, configured with increased economy class seating, was carrying 524 people. Casualties of the crash included all 15 crew members and 505 of the 509 passengers. Some of the passengers survived the initial crash but subsequently died of their injuries hours later while awaiting rescue. It is the deadliest single-aircraft accident in aviation history.[1]

Aircraft and crew[edit]

The accident aircraft was registered JA8119 and was a Boeing 747-146SR (Short Range). Its first flight was on January 28, 1974. It had accumulated slightly more than 25,000 flight hours and 18,835 cycles[1] (one cycle consists of a takeoff, a cabin pressurization, and a landing) in service.

Nationality Passengers Crew Fatalities Survivors Total
Japan 487 15 498 4 502
China 1 1 1
West Germany 2 2 2
Hong Kong 4 4 4
India 3 3 3
Italy 2 2 2
South Korea 3 3 3
United Kingdom 1 1 1
United States 6 6 6
Total [citation needed] 509 15 520 4 524
Japan Airlines 123 - sitting plan-en.svg

At the time of the accident, the aircraft was on the fifth of its six planned flights of the day.[2] There were fifteen crew members, including three cockpit crew and 12 flight attendants.

The cockpit crew consisted of the following:

  • Captain Masami Takahama (高浜 雅己, Takahama Masami) served as a training instructor for First Officer Yutaka Sasaki on the flight, supervising him while handling the radio communications,[3][4][5] while also acting as the first officer. Takahama was a veteran pilot, having logged approximately 12,400 total flight hours, roughly 4,850 of which were accumulated flying 747s. Takahama was aged 49 at the time of the accident.
  • First Officer Yutaka Sasaki (佐々木 祐, Sasaki Yutaka) was undergoing training for promotion to the rank of captain and flew Flight 123 as one of his final training/evaluation flights, acting as captain on the flight.[2]:14–15 Sasaki, who was 39 years old at the time of the accident, had approximately 4,000 total flight hours to his credit and he had logged roughly 2,650 hours in the 747.
  • Flight Engineer Hiroshi Fukuda (福田 博, Fukuda Hiroshi), a 46-year-old veteran flight engineer who had approximately 9,800 total flight hours, of which roughly 3,850 were accrued flying 747s.[2]


The flight was around the Obon holiday period in Japan when many Japanese people make yearly trips to their home towns or resorts.[6] Around twenty-one non-Japanese boarded the flight.[7] By August 13, 1985, Geoffrey Tudor, a spokesman for Japan Airlines, stated that the list included four residents of Hong Kong, two each from Italy and the United States, and one each from West Germany and the United Kingdom.[8] Some foreigners had dual nationalities, and some of them were residents of Japan.[6]

The four survivors, all female, were seated on the left side and toward the middle of seat rows 54–60, in the rear of the aircraft.[citation needed]

Among the dead was singer Kyu Sakamoto, who was famous for the hit song "Ue o Muite Arukō", known in Anglophone countries under the title "Sukiyaki".[citation needed]

Sequence of events[edit]

Route of Japan Air Lines Flight 123

Take-off and decompression[edit]

The aircraft landed at Haneda from New Chitose Airport at 4:50 p.m. as JL514. After more than an hour on the ramp, Flight 123 pushed back from gate 18 at 6:04 p.m.[2] and took off from Runway 15L[2] at Haneda Airport in Ōta, Tokyo, Japan, at 6:12 p.m., twelve minutes behind schedule.[9] About 12 minutes after takeoff, at near cruising altitude over Sagami Bay, the aircraft underwent rapid decompression[2]:83 bringing down the ceiling around the rear lavatories, damaging the unpressurized fuselage aft of the plane, unseating the vertical stabilizer, and severing all four hydraulic lines. A photograph taken from the ground confirmed that the vertical stabilizer was missing.[10]

The pilots set their transponder to broadcast a distress signal. Afterward, Captain Takahama contacted Tokyo Area Control Center to declare an emergency, and to request to return to Haneda Airport, descending and following emergency landing vectors to Oshima. Tokyo Control approved a right-hand turn to a heading of 90° east back towards Oshima, and the aircraft entered an initial right-hand bank of 40°, several degrees greater than observed previously. Captain Takahama, alarmed, ordered First Officer Sasaki to bank the aircraft back ("Don't bank so much.").[2]:296 When the aircraft did not respond to the control wheel being turned left, he expressed confusion, after which the flight engineer reported that the hydraulic pressure was dropping. The Captain repeated the order to reduce the bank, as the autopilot had disengaged. He then ordered the copilot to bank it back, then ordered him to pull up. All of these maneuvers produced no response. It was at this point that the pilots realized that the aircraft had become uncontrollable, and Captain Takahama ordered the copilot to descend.[2]:297

6:27 p.m. – 6:34 p.m.[edit]

Due to the apparent loss of control, the aircraft did not follow Tokyo Control's directions and only turned right far enough to fly a north-westerly course. Seeing that the aircraft was still flying west away from Haneda, Tokyo Control contacted the aircraft again. After confirming that the pilots were declaring an emergency, the controller requested as to the nature of the emergency. At this point, hypoxia appears to have begun setting in, as the pilots did not respond. Also, the Captain and Co-pilot asked the Flight Engineer repeatedly if hydraulic pressure was lost (Flight Engineer: "Hydro pressure all loss." Co-pilot: "All loss?" Captain: "No, look." Flight Engineer: "All loss." Co-pilot: "All loss?" Flight Engineer: "Yes."),[2]:298 seemingly unable to comprehend it. Tokyo Control then contacted the aircraft again and repeated the direction to descend and turn to a 90° heading to Oshima. Only then did the captain report that the aircraft had become uncontrollable. (Tokyo: "Japan Air 124 [sic] fly heading 090 radar vector to Oshima." JAL123: "But now uncontrol." Tokyo: "Uncontrol, roger understood.")[2]:299

Heading over the Izu Peninsula at 6:26 p.m., the aircraft turned away from the Pacific Ocean, and back towards the shore;[2]:150 At 6:31:02 p.m., Tokyo Control asked the crew if they could descend, and Captain Takahama replied that they were now descending, and stated that the aircraft's altitude was 24,000 feet after Tokyo Control requested their altitude. Captain Takahama also declined Tokyo Control's suggestion to divert to Nagoya Airport 72 miles away, instead preferring to land at Haneda.[2]:302 However, the flight data recorder shows that the flight did not descend, but was instead rising and falling uncontrollably.[11] :1–6 Hydraulic fluid completely drained away through the rupture. With the total loss of hydraulic control and non-functional control surfaces, the aircraft began up and down oscillations in phugoid cycles lasting about 90 seconds each. The loss of the vertical stabilizer and the rudder removed the only means to dampen yaw, and the aircraft lost virtually all meaningful yaw stability. Almost immediately after separation of the stabilizer, the aircraft began to exhibit Dutch roll, simultaneously yawing right and banking right, before yawing back left and banking left. At some points during the flight, the banking motion became very profound, with the banks in large arcs of approximately 50° back and forth in cycles of 12 seconds.[12]

Despite the complete loss of controls, the pilots continued to turn the control wheel, pull on the control column, and move the rudder pedals up until the moment of the crash.[11]:7–12[2]:128 The pilots also began efforts to establish control using engine thrust,[11]:19–24 as the aircraft slowly wandered back towards Haneda. Their efforts were of limited success. The unpressurized aircraft rose and fell in an altitude range of 20,000–24,000 feet (6,100–7,300 m) for 18 minutes, from the moment of decompression up until approximately 6:40 p.m., with the pilots seemingly unable to figure out how to descend without flight controls.[11]:1–6 This is possibly due to the effects of hypoxia at such altitudes, as the pilots seemed to have difficulty comprehending their situation as the aircraft pitched and rolled uncontrollably. It is also possible that the pilots were focused on the cause of the explosion they heard, and the subsequent difficulty in controlling the jet.[2]:126, 137–138 The flight engineer did say they should put on their oxygen masks when word reached the cockpit that the rear-most passenger masks had stopped working. However, none of the pilots did put on their oxygen masks, even though the Captain simply replied "yes" to both suggestions by the flight engineer to do so. The accident report indicates that the Captain's disregard of the suggestion is one of several features "regarded as hypoxia-related in [the] CVR record[ing]."[2]:97 Their voices can be heard relatively clearly on the cockpit area microphone for the entire duration up until the crash, indicating that they did not do so at any point in the flight.[2]:96[2]:126

6:34 p.m. – 6:48 p.m.[edit]

Shortly before 6:34 p.m., Japan Air Tokyo attempted to call the flight via the selective-calling system multiple times. At 6:35, the flight responded, with the flight engineer handling communications to the company. The company stated that they have been monitoring the emergency, and the flight engineer, having been notified by a flight attendant that the R-5 masks had stopped working, replied that they believed the R-5 door was broken and were making an emergency descent. Japan Air Tokyo asked if they intended to return to Haneda, to which the flight engineer responded that they were making an emergency descent, and to continue to monitor them.[2]:306–307

Eventually, the pilots were able to achieve limited control of the aircraft by adjusting engine thrust, and in doing so, they were able to dampen the phugoid cycle and somewhat stabilize their altitude. Suppressing the Dutch roll was another matter, as the engines cannot respond fast enough to counter the Dutch roll. According to the accident report, "Suppressing of Dutch roll mode by use of the differential thrust between the right and left engines is estimated practically impossible for a pilot."[2]:89 Shortly after 6:40 p.m., the landing gear was lowered in an attempt to dampen the phugoid cycles and Dutch rolls further, and to attempt to decrease the aircraft's airspeed to descend. This was somewhat successful, as the phugoid cycles were dampened almost completely, and the Dutch roll was damped significantly, but lowering the gear also decreased the directional control the pilots were getting by applying power to one side of the aircraft, and the aircrew's ability to control the aircraft deteriorated.[12]

Shortly after lowering the gear, the flight engineer asked if the speed brakes should be used, (“Shall we use speed brakes?”) but the pilots didn’t acknowledge the request.[2]:310 Then the aircraft began a right-hand descending 420° turn from a heading of 040° at 6:40 p.m. to a heading of 100° at 6:45 p.m. over Otsuki, due to a thrust imbalance created from having the power setting on Engine 1 (the left-most engine) higher than the other three engines.[2]:290 The aircraft also began descending from 22,400 feet (6,800 m) to 17,000 feet (5,200 m), as the pilots had reduced engine thrust to near idle from 6:43 p.m. to 6:48 p.m. Upon descending to 13,500 feet (4,100 m) at 6:45:46 p.m., the pilots again reported an uncontrollable aircraft.[2]:324 At this time, the aircraft began to turn slowly to the left, while continuing to descend. The thicker air allowed the pilots more oxygen, and their hypoxia appeared to have subsided somewhat, as they were communicating more frequently.[2]:97 The pilots also appeared to be understanding how grave their situation had become, with Captain Takahama exclaiming "This may be hopeless." at 6:46:33.[2]:317 At 6:47 p.m., the pilots recognized that they were beginning to turn towards the mountains, and despite efforts by the crew to get the aircraft to continue to turn right, it instead turned left, flying directly towards the mountainous terrain on a westerly heading.

6:48 p.m. – 6:55 p.m.[edit]

A picture of the aircraft taken at around 6:47 p.m. shows that the vertical stabilizer is missing (circled in red)

As the aircraft continued west, it descended below 7,000 feet (2,100 m), and was getting dangerously close to the mountains. The lower altitude and thicker air caused the Cabin Altitude alert to turn itself off at a couple of points at this time, before resuming for the rest of the flight. The captain briefly ordered maximum engine power to attempt to get the aircraft to climb to avoid the mountains, and engine power was added abruptly at 6:48 p.m. before being reduced back to near idle, then at 6:49 p.m. it was ordered raised again.[2]:319 This greatly excited the phugoid motion,[2]:291 and the aircraft pitched up, before pitching back down after power was reduced. When power was added again, the aircraft rapidly pitched up to 40° at 6:49:30 p.m.,[11]:1–6 briefly stalling at 8,000 feet (2,400 m). The captain immediately ordered maximum power at 6:49:40 p.m. as the stick shaker sounded ("Ah, no good... Stall. Max power. Max power. Max power.").[2]:320 The aircraft's airspeed increased as it was brought into an unsteady climb. Possibly as a measure to prevent a recurrence of stalling, due to the lowered airspeed caused by the drag of the landing gear, the crew quickly discussed lowering the flaps. Without hydraulics, the captain expressed that this wouldn't work, but the flight engineer pointed out this could be done via an alternate electrical system.[2]:322 At 6:51 p.m., the Captain lowered the flaps 5 units as an additional attempt to exert control over the stricken jet.[2]:291[12] During the period from 6:49:03 - 6:52:11, Japan Air Tokyo attempted to call the aircraft via the selective-calling radio system. During the entire three-minute period, the SELCAL alarm continued to ring according to the CVR recordings,[2]:320–323 the pilots most likely ignoring it due to the difficulty they were experiencing at the time.

The aircraft reached 13,000 feet (4,000 m) at 6:53 p.m., at which point the captain reported an uncontrollable aircraft for the third time. Shortly afterward, the controller asked the crew to switch the radio frequency to 119.7 to talk to the Tokyo Approach (“Japan Air 123, switch the frequency to 119.7 please!”), and while the pilots did not acknowledge the request over the radio, they did as instructed (Captain: “Yes, Yes, 119.7” Co-pilot: “Ah, Yes, number 2” Captain: “119.7” Co-pilot: “Yes” Flight Engineer: “Shall we try?” Co-pilot: “Yes”). Tokyo Approach then contacted the flight via the SELCAL system, briefly activating the SELCAL alarm again until the flight engineer responded to Tokyo’s request. At this point, the captain asked the flight engineer to request their position (Captain: “Request position” Flight Engineer: “Request position”). At 6:54 p.m., this was reported to the flight as 45 miles northwest of Haneda, and 25 miles west of Kumagaya. At 6:55 p.m. the captain requested flap extension, and the co-pilot called out a flap extension to 10 units, while the flaps were already being extended from 5 units at 6:54:30. This began to cause the aircraft to begin to bank to the right, possibly due to an imbalance in the lift between the left and right flaps. Power was increased at the same time. However, a differential thrust setting caused engine power on the left side to be slightly higher than the right side. This contributed to further increasing the bank angle to the right.[2]:291–292

One minute later, the flaps were extended to 25 units, which caused the aircraft to bank dramatically to the right beyond 60°, and the nose began to drop.[2]:292 Captain Takahama immediately ordered the flaps to be retracted ("Hey, halt the flap"),[2]:326 and power was added abruptly but still with engine power higher on the left vs. the right engines.[2]:292 The captain was heard on the cockpit voice recorder desperately requesting for the flaps to be retracted and for more power to be applied in a last-ditch effort to raise the nose[13][2]:326–327 (Captain: “Power! Flap stop crowding together.” Co-pilot: “Flap up, flap up, flap up, flap up!” Captain: “Flap up?” Co-pilot: “Yes.” Captain: “Power. Power! Flap!” Flight engineer: “It is up!” Captain: "Raise the nose. Raise the nose! Power!"). The aircraft continued to enter an unrecoverable right-hand descent into the mountains as the engines were pushed to full power, during which the Ground Proximity Warning System sounded, and the captain knew it was too late to recover (Captain: “We can not do anything now!”). In the final moments, as the airspeed exceeded 340 knots (390 mph), the pitch attitude leveled out and the aircraft ceased descending, with the aircraft and passengers/crew being subjected to 3Gs of upward vertical acceleration.[2]:292

6:56 p.m. (The time of impact)[edit]

However, the aircraft was still in a 40° right-hand bank when the right-most #4 engine impacted into the trees on top of a ridge located 1.4 kilometres (0.87 mi) NNW of Mount Mikuni at an elevation of 1,530 metres (5,020 ft), which can be heard on the CVR recording. The backward shock of the impact, measuring 0.14G, in addition to losing the thrust of the 4th engine, caused the aircraft to bank sharply back to the right, and the nose to drop again. The aircraft continued on its trajectory for three seconds, upon which the right-wing clipped another ridge containing a "U-shaped ditch" 520 metres (1,710 ft) WNW of the previous ridge at an elevation of 1,610 metres (5,280 ft). This impact is speculated to have separated the remainder of the weakened tail from the airframe, as well as the remaining three engines, which were "dispersed 500-700 meters ahead";[2]:19, 91 after which the aircraft flipped on its back, impacted upon, and exploded on another ridge 570 metres (1,870 ft) NW from the second ridge, near Mount Takamagahara, at 6:56 p.m. The impact registered on a seismometer located in the Shin-Etsu Earthquake Observatory at Tokyo University from 6:56:27 as a small shock, to 6:56:32 as a larger shock, estimated to have been caused by the final crash. It is estimated that the shockwaves took approximately 2.0-2.3 seconds to reach the seismometer, making the estimated time of the final crash to be at 6:56:30 pm.[2]:108–109

After the crash[edit]

Wreckage from the aircraft

The aircraft's crash point, at an elevation of 1,565 metres (5,135 ft), is in Sector 76, State Forest, 3577 Aza Hontani, Ouaza Narahara, Ueno Village, Tano District, Gunma Prefecture. The east-west ridge is about 2.5 kilometres (8,200 ft) north north west of Mount Mikuni.[2] Ed Magnuson of Time magazine said that the area where the aircraft crashed was referred to as the "Tibet" of Gunma Prefecture.[4] The elapsed time from the bulkhead failure to the crash was 32 minutes.[2]:123,127[14]

Delayed rescue operation[edit]

  • Red X.svg Crash location
  • Blue pog.svg Tokyo International Airport (flight origin)
  • Green pog.svg Osaka International Airport (destination)

A United States Air Force navigator stationed at Yokota Air Base published an account in 1995 that stated that the U.S. military had monitored the distress calls and prepared a search and rescue operation that was aborted at the call of Japanese authorities. A U.S. Air Force C-130 crew was the first to spot the crash site 20 minutes after impact, while it was still daylight, and radioed the location to the Japanese and Yokota Air Base, where an Iroquois helicopter was dispatched.[15] An article in the Pacific Stars and Stripes from 1985 stated that personnel at Yokota were on standby to help with rescue operations but were never called by the Japanese government.[16]

A JSDF helicopter later spotted the wreck after nightfall. Poor visibility and the difficult mountainous terrain prevented it from landing at the site. The pilot reported from the air that there were no signs of survivors. Based on this report, JSDF personnel on the ground did not set out to the site on the night of the crash. Instead, they were dispatched to spend the night at a makeshift village erecting tents, constructing helicopter landing ramps, and engaging in other preparations, 63 kilometres (39 mi) from the crash site. Rescue teams set out for the site the following morning. Medical staff later found bodies with injuries suggesting that people had survived the crash only to die from shock, exposure overnight in the mountains, or from injuries that, if tended to earlier, would not have been fatal.[12] One doctor said, "If the discovery had come ten hours earlier, we could have found more survivors."[17]

One of the four survivors, off-duty Japan Airlines flight purser Yumi Ochiai, recounted from her hospital bed that she recalled bright lights and the sound of helicopter rotors shortly after she awoke amid the wreckage, and while she could hear screaming and moaning from other survivors, these sounds gradually died away during the night.[12]


The official cause of the crash according to the report published by Japan's Aircraft Accident Investigation Commission is as follows:

Correct (top) and incorrect splice plate installations
  1. The aircraft was involved in a tailstrike incident at Osaka International Airport seven years earlier as JAL 115, which damaged the aircraft's aft pressure bulkhead.
  2. The subsequent repair of the bulkhead did not conform to Boeing's approved repair methods. For reinforcing a damaged bulkhead, Boeing's repair procedure calls for one continuous splice plate with three rows of rivets.[18] However, the Boeing technicians repairing had used two splice plates parallel to the stress crack.[19][20] Cutting the plate in this manner negated the effectiveness of one of the rows of rivets, reducing the part's resistance to fatigue cracking to about 70% of that for a correct repair. During the investigation, the Accident Investigation Commission calculated that this incorrect installation would fail after approximately 10,000 pressurization cycles; the aircraft accomplished 12,318 successful flights from the time that the faulty repair was made to when the crash happened.[2]:101–105
  3. Consequently, after repeated pressurization cycles during normal flight, the bulkhead gradually started to crack near one of the two rows of rivets holding it together. When it finally failed, the resulting rapid decompression ruptured the lines of all four hydraulic systems and ejected the vertical stabilizer. With many of the aircraft's flight controls disabled, the aircraft became uncontrollable.[2]:128

Aftermath and legacy[edit]

Flight 123 accident monument in Fujioka

The Japanese public's confidence in Japan Airlines took a dramatic downturn in the wake of the disaster, with passenger numbers on domestic routes dropping by one third. Rumors persisted that Boeing had admitted fault to cover up shortcomings in the airline's inspection procedures, thereby protecting the reputation of a major customer.[12] In the months after the crash, domestic traffic decreased by as much as 25%. In 1986, for the first time in a decade, fewer passengers boarded JAL's overseas flights during the New Year period than the previous year. Some of them considered switching to All Nippon Airways as a safer alternative.[21]

JAL paid ¥780 million (US$7.6 million) to the victims' relatives in the form of "condolence money" without admitting liability. JAL president Yasumoto Takagi resigned.[12] In the aftermath of the incident, Hiroo Tominaga, a JAL maintenance manager, killed himself to atone for the incident,[22] while Susumu Tajima, an engineer who had inspected and cleared the aircraft as flightworthy, committed suicide due to difficulties at work.[23]

In compliance with standard procedures, Japan Air Lines retired the flight number 123 for their Haneda-Itami routes, changing it to Flight 121 and Flight 127 on September 1, 1985. While Boeing 747s were still used on the same route operating with the new flight numbers in the years following the crash, they were replaced by the Boeing 767 or Boeing 777 in the mid-1990s. The 747s continued serving JAL until their retirement on March 2, 2011.[citation needed]

In 2009, stairs with a handrail were installed to facilitate visitors' access to the crash site. Japan Land, Infrastructure, Transport, and Tourism Minister Seiji Maehara visited the site on August 12, 2010, to remember the victims.[24] Families of the victims, together with local volunteer groups, hold an annual memorial gathering every August 12 near the crash site in Gunma Prefecture.[25]

Cenotaph of Flight 123

The crash led to the 2006 opening of the Safety Promotion Center,[26][27] which is located in the Daini Sogo Building on the grounds of Haneda Airport.[28] This center was created for training purposes to alert employees to the importance of airline safety and their responsibility to ensure safety. The center has displays regarding aviation safety, the history of the crash, and selected pieces of the aircraft and passenger effects (including handwritten farewell notes). It is open to the public by appointment made two months before the visit.[29]

The captain's daughter, Yoko Takahama, who was a high school student at the time of the crash, went on to become a flight attendant for Japan Air Lines.[30]

Japanese banker Akihisa Yukawa had an undisclosed second family at the time he died in the crash. (His wife had earlier suffered severe brain injuries.) His partner, pregnant with their second child, returned with her family to London, where she and Yukawa had met. To avoid embarrassment to Yukawa's family, she accepted a settlement of £340,000, rather than claiming under the airline's compensation scheme. In 2002, the airline made an undisclosed payment enabling the two children, Cassie and Diana, to complete their education.[31]

Dennis Fitch, a United Airlines training check airman, learned of the crash of JAL 123 and wondered if it was possible to control an aircraft using throttles only. He practiced under similar conditions on a simulator, and was able to use his knowledge when the aircraft serving United Airlines Flight 232, on which he was a passenger, experienced a similar loss of control through severing of hydraulic lines through large damage near the tail wing. About three-fifths of the people on board that flight survived a crash-landing.[32]:11,113[33]

In popular culture[edit]

  • The events of Flight 123 were featured in "Out of Control," a Season 3 (2005) episode of the Canadian TV series Mayday,[34] which is entitled Air Emergency and Air Disasters in the U.S., and Air Crash Investigation in the UK and elsewhere around the world. The dramatization was broadcast with the title "Osutaka-no-One (御巣鷹の尾根)" in Japan. The flight was also included in a Mayday Season 6 (2007) Science of Disaster special, entitled "Fatal Flaw,"[35] which was broadcast with the title "Fatal Fix" in the United Kingdom, Australia and Asia.
  • The documentary series Aircrash Confidential featured the crash in a second-season episode titled "Poor Maintenance," which first aired on March 15, 2012, on the Discovery Channel in the United Kingdom.[36][37]
  • The National Geographic Channel's documentary series Seconds From Disaster featured the accident in Season 6 Episode 6, titled "Terrified over Tokyo," released December 3, 2012.[citation needed]
  • Climber's High, the best-selling novel by Hideo Yokoyama, revolves around the reporting of the crash at the fictional newspaper Kita-Kanto Shimbun. Yokoyama was a journalist at the Jōmō Shimbun at the time of the crash. A film released in 2008, and also titled Climber's High, is based on the novel.[38]
  • In 2009, the film Shizumanu Taiyō, starring Ken Watanabe, was released for national distribution in Japan. The film gives a semi-fictional account of the internal airline corporate disputes and politics surrounding the crash. However, the film does not mention Japanese Air Lines by name, using the name "National Airlines" instead. JAL not only refused to co-operate with the making of the film[39] but also bitterly criticized the film, saying that it "not only damages public trust in the company but could lead to a loss of customers."[40] Coincidentally, the movie features music by Diana Yukawa, whose father was one of the victims of this disaster.
  • The cockpit voice recording (CVR) of the incident was incorporated into the script of a 1999 play called Charlie Victor Romeo.[41]
  • The 2004 album Reise, Reise by German Neue Deutsche Härte band Rammstein is loosely inspired by the crash. The final moments of the cockpit voice recording is hidden in the pregap of the first track on some CD pressings of the album.[42]
  • In 2011, British academic Christopher Hood published a book, titled Dealing with Disaster in Japan: Responses to the Flight JL123 Crash, on the crash and its effect on Japanese society.[43][44]

See also[edit]

Similar accidents caused by major pressurization failures:

Similar accidents involving loss of flight controls:


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  5. ^ "Pictures of the three pilots". Retrieved January 22, 2013.
  6. ^ a b Haberman, Clyde (August 13, 1985). "Jetliner Crashes with 524 Aboard in Central Japan". The New York Times. Retrieved June 2, 2017.
  7. ^ "524 killed in worst single air disaster." The Guardian.
  8. ^ Moosa, Eugene. "Jet Crash Kills Over 500 In Mountains of Japan." Associated Press at The Schenectady Gazette. Tuesday Morning August 13, 1985. First Edition. Volume 91 (XCI) No. 271. Front Page (p. 5?). Retrieved from Google News (1 of 2) on August 24, 2013. "JAL spokesman Geoffrey Tudor said two Americans were on the passenger list." and "JAL released a passenger list that included 21 non-Japanese names, and Tudor said there were two Americans, two Italians, one Briton, one West German, and four Chinese residents of Hong Kong"
  9. ^ Magnuson, Ed. "Last Minutes of JAL 123." TIME. 2.
  10. ^ "Special Report: Japan Air Lines Flight 123". AirDisaster.Com. August 12, 1985. Archived from the original on January 8, 2013. Retrieved January 22, 2013.
  11. ^ a b c d e "AIRCRAFT ACCIDENT INVESTIGATION REPORT Japan Air Lines Co., Ltd. Boeing 747 SR-100, JA8119 Gunma Prefecture, Japan August 12, 1985" (PDF). Aircraft Accident Investigation Commission. June 19, 1987. Retrieved August 25, 2019.
  12. ^ a b c d e f g Macarthur Job, Air Disaster Volume 2, Aerospace Publications, 1996, ISBN 1-875671-19-6: pp.136–153
  13. ^ "12 August 1985 - Japan Air Lines 123". Tailstrike.com. Retrieved December 31, 2018.
  14. ^ "FOR SURVIVORS AND KIN, JOY AMID SORROW". The New York Times. August 14, 1985. Retrieved June 2, 2017.
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