Skip to main content

Despite it being safer than ever to fly, the aviation industry has started 2024 off with some frightening headlines, leaving some of the most powerful organisations in the industry with some questions to answer.

Firstly, the incident in Japan involving a Japan Airlines Airbus A350 which collided with a Dash-8 aircraft on the runway at Tokyo Haneda Airport on January 2.

While there are weeks if not months of investigation yet to be done, early signs appear to point to the position of the Dash-8 being operated by the Japanese Navy as the biggest factor in the incident.

We’ve all likely seen or read how the incident unfolded, but what needs to be underlined is the fact that every single person onboard the Airbus A350 managed to get out essentially uninjured.

While amazing, this shows just how advanced the aviation industry has become in protecting the lives and safety of its passengers.

The scenes on Haneda’s tarmac of passengers walking away from the burning wreckage is the result of decades of research and changes made in aviation design, especially from past incidents where passengers may not have been so lucky.

Just as this incident was fading from the headlines, our screens were filled with the frightening image of an Alaska Airlines Boeing 737 with a gaping hole in the side of it following an incident just after departure from Portland, Oregon.

What’s lucky about this incident is that there was no passenger sitting in the seat immediately next to the part of the fuselage that blew out. Passengers did lose items of clothing and mobile phones due to the gush of air from the blast, but no lives were lost.

That may not have been the case if a passenger had been seated in that row, or if the aircraft had been at a much higher altitude when the incident happened. The Boeing 737 was at around 12,000 feet when the explosive decompression happened.  The air pressure outside the aircraft at that height is much friendlier than at 38,000 feet where the aircraft would have been cruising at just a few minutes later.

What travel experts and the wider industry will be wanting to know is whether the incident is as a result of poor maintenance or practice from Alaska Airlines, or more worryingly, if there is a larger, more systematic issue with the aircraft design. An outcome that troubled manufacturer Boeing will be more than hoping to avoid.

Alaskan Airlines and United Airlines have temporarily grounded their fleet of Boeing 737 Max 9. Currently no airline operates the Max 9 is this region.