Japan Airlines Flight 2

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Japan Airlines Flight 2
Douglas DC-8-62 (5N-AON (ex. JA8032)).jpg
Accident summary
Date November 22, 1968
Summary Pilot error
Site San Francisco Bay, San Mateo County, California, USA
37°35′N 122°19′W / 37.59°N 122.31°W / 37.59; -122.31Coordinates: 37°35′N 122°19′W / 37.59°N 122.31°W / 37.59; -122.31
Passengers 96
Crew 11
Injuries (non-fatal) 0
Fatalities 0
Survivors 107 (All)
Aircraft type Douglas DC-8-62
Operator Japan Airlines
Registration JA8032
Flight origin Tokyo International Airport
Destination San Francisco International Airport

Japan Airlines Flight 2 was a flight piloted by Captain Kohei Asoh on November 22, 1968.[1] The plane was a new Douglas DC-8 named "Shiga", flying from Tokyo International Airport to San Francisco International Airport. Due to heavy fog and other factors, Asoh mistakenly landed the plane in the shallow waters of San Francisco Bay, two and a half miles short of the runway.[2][3] None of the 96 passengers or 11 crew were injured in the landing.

Japan Airlines Flight 2 in the water just short of the runway at San Francisco International Airport

The passengers all evacuated the plane on lifeboats. The plane came to rest on solid ground 10 feet below the water, leaving the forward exits above the waterline. It was not severely damaged and was recovered 55 hours after the incident,[4] transported to the airport on a barge.[5] United Airlines refurbished the aircraft for service at their maintenance base at the airport, at a cost of roughly $4 million USD.[6] The aircraft was returned to JAL on March 31, 1969,[4] where it was renamed "Hidaka" and continued in service to JAL until 1983.

By 1973 Japan Airlines was using Boeing 747 aircraft on the Tokyo to San Francisco route.[7] Japan Airlines still flies from Tokyo (Haneda) to San Francisco, today using the Boeing 777-300ER

Cause of accident[edit]

Captain Asoh was a veteran pilot with roughly 10,000 hours of flight time, 1,000 of them on DC-8s. During World War II he served as a flight instructor for the Japanese military.[1] His first officer, Captain Joseph Hazen, had similar flight time, but little DC-8 experience. Captain Asoh attempted an automatic-coupled Instrument Landing System (ILS) approach, something neither of them had done before on a recorded DC-8 flight.

The cloud ceiling was 300 feet, with visibility of 3/4 of a mile, and there was little contrast between the sky and the calm waters of the bay. As a result, once the plane descended below the clouds, the mistake was not recognized in time to correct it before hitting the water.

The US National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) review of the incident found that:

The probable cause of this accident was the improper application of the prescribed procedures to execute an automatic-coupled ILS approach. This deviation from the prescribed procedures was, in part, due to a lack of familiarization and infrequent operation of the installed flight director and autopilot system.

The "Asoh defense"[edit]

Asoh, when asked by the NTSB about the landing, reportedly replied, "As you Americans say, I fucked up."[1] In his 1988 book The Abilene Paradox, author Jerry B. Harvey termed this frank acceptance of blame the "Asoh defense", and the story and term have been taken up by a number of other management theorists.[8]


Asoh was demoted to First Officer, went through further ground schooling, and continued to fly for JAL until his retirement. Hazen also returned to flying a few months later.

JA8032 was sold to Air ABC (registration TF-BBF), then to Okada Air (registration 5N-AON), and finally flew as an express freighter for Airborne Express (registration N808AX) before being decommissioned.[1]


  1. ^ a b c d "Splashdown of the "Shiga"". Check-Six.com. Retrieved May 11, 2011. 
  2. ^ Silagi, Richard (March 9, 2001). "The DC-8 that was too young to die". Airliners.net. Retrieved August 25, 2016. 
  3. ^ "NTSB Aircraft Accident Report AAR-70-02" (PDF). Retrieved May 11, 2011. 
  4. ^ a b "Aviation Safety Network Accident Description". Aviation-safety.net. Retrieved May 11, 2011. 
  5. ^ "Flight International 5 Dec 1968". Flight International. December 5, 1968. Retrieved May 11, 2011. 
  6. ^ The Japan Air Lines miracle water landing of 1968. Peter Hartlaub, San Francisco Chronicle & SFGate, 2011.
  7. ^ http://blog.sfgate.com/parenting/2011/04/20/the-japan-air-lines-miracle-water-landing-of-1968-photos/
  8. ^ Senge, The Fifth Discipline: The Art & Practice of the Learning Organization (Doubleday, 1990) ISBN 0-385-26094-6, p. 301

External links[edit]