A routine domestic flight from Tokyo to Osaka ended in the world’s worst accident involving a single aircraft when a Japan Airlines Boeing 747 crashed into a ridge near Mount Osutaka in the Japanese Alps. Flight 123 took off from Tokyo’s Haneda airport shortly after 18.00 on August 12 1985 for the 50-minute scheduled flight to Osaka. On board were 509 passengers, mostly holidaymakers, and 15 crew. Barely ten minutes into the flight the pilot reported a problem with the rear of the plane; he intended to turn back and make an emergency landing. Moments later, however, he radioed that he was no longer in control of the aircraft. The final message received at air traffic control said that the plane was lost. With the steering disabled, the aircraft veered off course and headed inland towards the mountains of central Japan.
When rescue and salvage teams got to the scene of the crash, they found debris scattered over a wide area of the remote mountainside. The desperate search for survivors was to little avail; only four people emerged from the tragedy alive. The accident happened just two months after another Boeing jet had crashed into the sea off southern Ireland with the loss of all hands, so there was intense pressure on the company to identify the cause of the Japanese crash and guarantee the safety of its fleet.
The cause was eventually found to have been a faulty repair seven years previously to the aircraft’s rear pressure bulkhead, which had been damaged in a tailstrike incident during a landing. A single row of rivets had been used instead of the regulation double row; this caused the failure of the bulkhead, vital for maintaining cabin pressure. The resulting decompression ruptured the plane’s hydraulics, thereby disabling its steering system.
When was the Mount Osutaka Air Crash: August 12 1985
Where was the Mount Osutaka Air Crash: Near Mount Osutaka, Honshu, Japan
What was the Mount Osutaka Air Crash Death toll: 520
You should know: The well-known Japanese violin virtuoso Diana Yukawa lost her father in the crash. She never knew him as she was born three weeks after his death, but in 2009 on the 24th anniversary of the disaster she played her Guarneri violin at the accident scene.