The transport ministry plans to issue a directive that will require pilots to obey their computers rather than air traffic controllers in the event of conflicting orders, ministry sources said.
The Land, Infrastructure and Transport Ministry plans to issue the directive in the wake of a near miss in January 2001 between two Japan Airlines jets.
Pilots will basically follow instructions from the Traffic Collision Avoidance System on their aircraft even if controllers issue different instructions during dangerous in-flight situations, the sources said Tuesday.
The ministry is expected to insert the new directive in its flight information manual. When the accident investigation committee compiles its final report on the near miss, the ministry will make a final decision based on the report, the sources said.
During the incident last year, JAL Flight 907, a Boeing 747 flying to Naha, Okinawa Prefecture, from Tokyo’s Haneda airport, came close to colliding over the sea off Shizuoka Prefecture with JAL Flight 958, a DC-10 bound for Narita airport from Pusan, South Korea.
A controller mixed up the flight names and instructed Flight 907 to descend. Immediately after the order was given, however, the plane’s TCAS instructed the pilot to climb to avoid a collision with approaching Flight 958.
Following the controller’s order, the 747 pilot maintained his descent before the two planes passed within a few meters of each other.
Flight 958 was also descending. A radical evasive maneuver by Flight 907 resulted in injuries to 100 crew members and passengers.
The TCAS automatically instructs pilots to climb, descend or turn to avoid a collision and can exchange information with a conflicting plane’s system as well.
As a result of the study, the ministry has concluded that the TCAS is a highly reliable system.
The ministry’s current manual leaves the decision of whether to respond to TCAS instructions at the pilot’s discretion, the sources said.
Airline manuals stipulate that pilots should follow instructions from the TCAS, but they fail to specify whether orders from air traffic controllers have top priority.
The ministry is expected to call on airlines to review their manuals. JAL has already done so.
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