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JAL Group's Fortress of Safety
On August 12, 1985, JAL123 crashed on the ridges of Mt. Osutaka, and 520 valuable lives perished. In face of the pain and grief of the bereaved families and public distrust in airline safety, we pledged that we would never again allow such a tragic accident to occur.
We opened the Safety Promotion Center on April 24, 2006 to reconfirm the importance of flight safety and to embed in our minds, the lessons learned from this accident.
JAL Group positions the Safety Promotion Center as its 'Fortress of Safety' and the starting point of safe and reliable operations. Every staff is reminded that valuable lives and property are entrusted to us in our work.
The Safety Promotion Center is composed of two rooms.
Exhibits aircraft debris including the aft pressure bulkhead, the malfunction regarded as the main cause of the JAL123 accident, the aft fuselage wreckage, cockpit voice recorder, passengers' personal belongings, newspaper reports, and photographs of the crash site.
Features the History of Aviation Safety, which describes safety improvements based on lessons learned from accidents, and a panel describing actual cases of preventing damage from spreading,etc. Also shown are message cards containing "My Safety Pledge" of JAL Group staff who visited the Center.
JAL flight 123, JA8119 took off from Haneda Airport at 18:12 on August 12, 1985, bound for Osaka's Itami Airport with 509 passengers and 15 crew on board.
At 18:24:35, just before reaching the cruising altitude of 24,000 feet (7,315m) and approaching the east coast of the Izu Peninsula, there was a booming noise and the aircraft experienced an emergency situation which had serious impact on its further flight.
The aft pressure bulkhead was ruptured and the pressurized air in the cabin blew out into the aft fuselage, blowing off the APU (Auxiliary Power Unit), portions of the tail cone and forcing a considerable part of the vertical stabilizer to break off. Simultaneously all four hydraulic systems were severed, rendering the flight control surfaces inoperable.
After that, the aircraft continued to fly with severe Dutch roll and phugoid motions for about 32 minutes, finally crashing at about 18:56 into the south ridge of Mount Osutaka (1,565m) near Ueno village, Tano Country in Gunma Prefecture.
The probable cause of this accident is explained as follows. JA8119 had experienced a tail strike on the runway during landing at Itami Airport seven years before (1978). Boeing had carried out inappropriate repair work when splicing the replacement lower half of the aft pressure bulkhead to the upper half. This had resulted in the formation of many small fatigue cracks originating from the area of the joint and these had gradually extended over the subsequent seven years. The cracks had spread, connecting with each other, so that on this flight, when the pressure difference between the cabin and the fuselage aft of the bulkhead increased, the bulkhead finally fractured violently, creating an operating between two to three meters in size. (Abstract from the report by the Aircraft Accident investigation Commission, Ministry of Transport).
Investigation and rescue operations were started immediately. However, the official search and rescue unit arrived at the crash site early the next morning because the crash site was in a remote district and it had taken a long time to pinpoint the location. Of the total of 524 on board, there were four heavily injured survivors and 520 fatalities.
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