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IFALPA calls on Tokyo Supreme Court to overturn controller convictions

Written by editor

CHERTSEY – The International Federation of Air Line Pilots’ Associations (IFALPA) is calling on the Tokyo Supreme Court to overturn the convictions of Hideki Hachitani, a student air traffic control

CHERTSEY – The International Federation of Air Line Pilots’ Associations (IFALPA) is calling on the Tokyo Supreme Court to overturn the convictions of Hideki Hachitani, a student air traffic control officer, and Yasuko Momii,
his supervising officer, who were handling the flights involved in the January 2001 near miss between two Japan Air Lines flights.

According to the report into the incident by the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, and Transport, a JAL907, a 747-446 Domestic, and JAL958 a DC-10-40 came within less than 100 meters of each other. Quick thinking and skillful airmanship by flight 907’s commander Capt. Makoto Watanabe averted what could have been aviation’s worst crash. However, a number of passengers and crew were injured during the evasive maneuvers.

As a result of these injuries, the Tokyo District State Prosecutors Office brought criminal charges against the two controllers for professional negligence. In March of 2006, the Tokyo District Court found the two not guilty and the presiding Judge Hisaharu Yasui noted in his ruling that prosecution of the controllers was unsuitable. However, the Prosecutor’s Office lodged an appeal which was upheld by the Tokyo High Court in April of this year.

Mr. Hachitani was sentenced to a year’s imprisonment and Ms. Momii to eighteen months with both sentences suspended for three years. At present, the two are free on bail as their defense teams plan a further appeal with the Supreme
Court. This appeal is due to be filed tomorrow.

IFALPA calls on the Supreme Court to recognize the wisdom of Judge Yasui’s 2006 ruling and reject the findings of the High Court since it is clear that to pursue this conviction not only does nothing to improve safety in air transport it may actually harm it. Furthermore, the Federation also calls on the Japanese government, as it has many times in the past, to enact legislation with would allow the country’s legal system to adhere to the internationally-agreed provisions of Annex 13 to the Chicago Convention and thereby not only take a significant step forward in the cause of safety for the
traveling public, but also remove the need for wasteful and needless trials and successive appeals.

For more information about ICAO Annex 13 and IFALPA’s non-punitive reporting and ‘just culture’ position see the document 09POS02 – “Accident Prevention Through a Just Culture” available on the IFALPA website
or by following this link:

You may also be interested in the Flight Safety Foundation Manual, “A Roadmap to a Just Culture,” which can be found via this link: