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World

'I was panicking': Passenger recalls earlier Boeing 777 jet failure over Japan

  • I was panicking in my head, thinking about how I was maybe going to die.
  • I thought I would go insane if I accepted the thought of death, so I focussed on taking videos of the situation.
22 Feb 2021

TOKYO: When Naru Kurokawa heard news at the weekend that an engine had caught fire on a Boeing 777 while over the United States, he recalled his own fear in December when an engine also failed as he was flying over Japan on the same model of jet.

"I was panicking in my head, thinking about how I was maybe going to die," said the 40-year-old, describing his alarm when the Japan Airlines Co Ltd (JAL) Boeing 777 he was on was forced to make an emergency landing about 40 minutes after take off.

"I thought I would go insane if I accepted the thought of death, so I focussed on taking videos of the situation," he said of the Dec. 4 flight to Tokyo that was forced to return to Okinawa airport because of a malfunction in the left engine.

On Saturday, a United Airlines Boeing 777 suffered an engine fire, scattering debris over the US city of Denver and prompting Boeing to urge airlines to suspend flights of 777s that use the same Pratt & Whitney PW4000 engines.

Japan's transport ministry ordered JAL and ANA Holdings Inc on Sunday to suspend use of 777s with that engine type while it considered whether to take additional measures.

"Watching videos of the United Airlines flight and engines in flames brought back the fear I experienced," said Kurokawa, a web director and musician from Okinawa.

He had been making a video from his seat next to the window on the left side of the plane as he heard a loud ripping noise followed by a huge shake.

An employee of the Okinawa Times newspaper Minako Kuroshima, who was also on that JAL plane, wrote afterwards that a pilot told passengers the plane was flying with only the right engine.

The JAL plane made an emergency landing. There were no injuries among the 11 crew or 178 passengers, local media reported.

Japan Transport Safety Board said on Dec. 28 that two of the left engine's fan blades were found damaged, one from fatigue fracture. Damage was also seen in other parts of the plane including the engine cowl and fuselage.

A safety board spokesman said on Monday the investigation into the JAL incident was continuing.