In order to provide a more objective view of the current situation of the JAL Group’s safety measures, JAL asked a journalist with an extensive knowledge of safety issues to prepare a feature report for this highlight section.
Born in Hokkaido, Japan, in 1956, Haruhito Funaki is an industry journalist with newspaper experience. He writes reports for various media outlets on the situation at manufacturing sites. Funaki has also edited a journal on safety issues.
Human Factors Team Leader, Flight Safety Planning Department, Flight Safety Office, Flight Operations
Japan Airlines International Co., Ltd.
One third of my time is spent flying aircraft as a captain, and the other two thirds are spent doing deskwork as a safety manager. We are working on firmly establishing the Line Operations Safety Audit (LOSA)*2. However, even outside Japan there are few previous cases of a pilot familiar with actual cockpit conditions working on safety planning. I think we can expect good results by merging the operational site with the safety planning. When JAL flight 123 crashed in August 1985, 520 people lost their lives. With the passage of time however, the lessons of the accident have faded. This became apparent in 2005 when JAL experienced a series of maintenance errors and flight problems. In March of that year, Japan’s Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism issued JAL with a Business Improvement Order based on the Civil Aeronautics Act.
Safety is not something that just happens; it is the result of efforts to create a safe situation. It cannot just be added as window dressing to make things look safe. With the advancement of technology, the number of accidents due to the design of aircraft has declined, and human error is now the cause of 70% of accidents. In other words, accidents are being caused by people and organizations. Therefore, it is all the more important to ensure that safety is rooted in human behavior.
Aircraft Base Maintenance Department
JAL Tokyo Aircraft Maintenance Co., Ltd.
I am in charge of the maintenance performed on aircraft every 500 hours, roughly equivalent to once a month. About 20 staff spend half a day inspecting about 100 items and making repairs. Doing our work well makes the pre-flight inspection easier, and leads to better on-time departure rates. Human resources development to maintain strong technical skills is a big issue for maintenance. So it is important for onsite mechanics to verbally confirm with each other all the things that need to be been taken care of. “The Business Improvement Order was a real shock,” remembers Captain Tamaki Morii. Captain Morii is on active duty flying 747-400s, while also serving as the leader of the Human Factors Team in the Flight Safety Planning Department.
Toshiharu Yamaguchi, Leader of the Planning Group in the Corporate Safety and Security Division, had a similar reaction. “The problems continued even after the Business Improvement Order, and I felt responsible for the fact that even though we were working hard to remain competitive, it seemed that only JAL was falling short.”
The turning point came in December 2005, after JAL put together the Safety Advisory Group headed by the non-fiction writer Kunio Yanagida in August of that year, when the group released a Recommendation Paper. From that time onward, JAL took on the challenge of rebuilding the safety of its operations from scratch. Two and a half years have passed since then, and JAL’s safety culture has certainly begun to change.