Three aircraft were involved in a severe breach of runway safety at Naha Airport in Okinawa on Wednesday, prompting the Japan Transport Safety Board to launch an investigation into what it said was a near accident.
At about 1:20 p.m., a Boeing 737 operated by All Nippon Airways with 83 passengers and crew aboard was forced to abort its takeoff when an Air Self-Defense Force helicopter suddenly crossed in front of it, transport ministry officials said.
Air traffic controllers then instructed an approaching Japan TransOcean Air Boeing 737 to retry its landing, but the flight with 44 people aboard proceeded to land before the ANA plane had moved, posing the danger of collision, the officials said.
The ASDF base in Naha said its CH-47 helicopter took off because the pilot mistakenly believed the controllers’ takeoff clearance for the ANA plane was meant for itself.
The airport with a 3,000-meter runway is used by both civilian and SDF aircraft.
The ANA flight bound for Hokkaido was subsequently canceled, with its passengers taking another flight to the destination.