Japan Jet in Mid-Air Near-Miss

T O K Y O, Jan. 31, 2001 -- At least 35 people were injured, three of them seriously, when a Japan Airlines passenger jet maneuvered suddenly in midair to avoid the path of another airplane today.

The injured were on Japan Airlines domestic flight 907 from Tokyo's Haneda airport to Naha, on the southern Japan island of Okinawa, said Haneda spokeswoman Yuki Kobayashi.

Kobayashi said the Boeing 747-400, which left for Naha late this afternoon carrying 411 passengers and 16 crew members, returned safely to Haneda. The other plane, a Japan Airlines flight from Pusan, South Korea, carrying 236 passengers, also landed safely.

The injuries were mostly bruises. But three passengers, including a 54-year-old woman with a broken leg, were in serious condition, according to Japan Airlines spokesman Takeshi Suzuki.

"I express my deepest regrets," Japan Airlines Vice PresidentYasushi Yuasa said at a news conference.

Collision Warning Device Went Off

The pilot, Makoto Watanabe, 40, reported 15 minutes into theflight that a collision warning device had gone off in the cockpitand that he was taking emergency action to avoid a near miss whiledescending from an altitude of 37,000 feet.

Other details were not immediately released.

"I have never seen a plane fly so close," an unidentifiedpassenger told NHK, Japan's semipublic television network. "Ithought we were going to crash."

Other passengers said that the plane rocked back and forthviolently, then dropped suddenly.

Several passengers were taken to ambulances on stretchers, andothers had bandages on their heads. Two American teenagers — Meggan Wesche, 15, and Alison Wesche, 14, both of Michigan — were among the passengers hospitalized. Hospital officials were notimmediately able to provide any further details on the condition orhometown of the two.

The other plane, Japan Airlines flight No. 958 on its way toNarita airport from Pusan, in South Korea, landed at Narita,Tokyo's international airport. Narita is about 60miles east of Haneda.

There were no injuries on that plane, a DC-10 with 236passengers aboard, said JAL official Mineo Moro. He said the numberof crew on that flight was not known.

The airline and the Transport Ministry were investigating thecause of the accident.