Video: FedEx MD-11 crashes at Tokyo Narita airport, crew killed, airport shut down

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First posted – March 23, 01:00 GMT

A FedEx MD-11 freighter registration number N526FE performing flight 80, from Guangzhou, China crashed at Tokyo Narita International Airport in heavy winds, and burst in to flames. The two crew on board were killed. The main runway at the international gateway airport to Tokyo has been shut down.

Image courtesy Wikipedia

Most airlines have been forced to divert incoming flights to Tokyo Haneda, Osaka, Nagoya and other airports, as the longest runway of two at Narita has been closed.

The FedEx plane landed hard, tipped onto its left wing and burst into a bright orange fireball of flames, the video of the crash from Tokyo Broadcasting System shows. I have upload the video since the TBS website does not allow resizing of the small video window. The copyright remains that of TBS.

The three engined MD-11F an improvement of the old DC10 made by McDonnell Douglas, now a part of Boeing, is the mainstay of FedEx’s freighter fleet who has 58 aircraft in its fleet.

This crash is reminiscent of the July 31, 1997 crash of another FedEx MD-11F at Newark. The US National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) faulted the pilots for the crash of FedEx Flight 14, from Anchorage, Alaska to Newark.

Airport officials are unclear how long the main runway would be closed at Narita. International Japanese carriers Japan Airlines (JAL) and All Nippon Airways (ANA) have cancelled 29 and 10 flights respectively.

Having flown frequently to Narita I can attest to the tough time pilots have in the frequently occurring crosswinds. Both runways are aligned in a roughly North South direction (156/336 degree headings on the compass), and the airport often has strong crosswinds in an easterly and westerly direction. Paucity of land prevents the authorities from building a crossing runway at the airport.

METARS (21:48 UTC):
2009/03/22 21:00 RJAA 222100Z 30013G28KT 260V330 9999 FEW020 13/M01 Q0998 NOSIG RMK 1CU020 A2948
2009/03/22 21:00 RJAA 222100Z 30013G28KT 260V330 9999 FEW020 13/M01 Q0998 NOSIG
2009/03/22 21:08 RJAA 222108Z 31025G35KT 9999 FEW020 12/M01 Q0998 RMK 1CU020 A2949
2009/03/22 21:30 RJAA 222130Z 32026G40KT 9999 FEW020 12/M02 Q0999 WS R34L NOSIG
2009/03/22 21:30 RJAA 222130Z 32026G40KT 9999 FEW020 12/M02 Q0999 WS R34L NOSIG RMK 1CU020 A2952 P/RR
2009/03/22 21:30 RJAA 222130Z 32026G40KT 9999 FEW020 12/M02 Q0999 WS R34L NOSIG

Japan’s meteorological agency had issued an advisory of gales for the area around the airport.

Update 1 – 04:30 GMT

FedEx has put out a statement

A FedEx Express MD-11 was involved in an incident today en route from Guangzhou to Narita, with two crew members on board. The incident occurred upon landing. We are sad to report that there were no survivors.

Our deepest sympathies go out to the family and friends of these crew members. This loss pains all of us at FedEx. Right now our focus is on doing everything we can to assist those involved at this difficult time.

We are thankful for the quick response of emergency teams on the ground and will continue to work closely with the applicable authorities as we seek to determine the cause for this tragic incident.

Update 2 – 06:00 GMT

Widespread flight disruptions are being reported at Narita airport. Read the full article.

About Devesh Agarwal

A electronics and automotive product management, marketing and branding expert, he was awarded a silver medal at the Lockheed Martin innovation competition 2010. He is ranked 6th on Mashable's list of aviation pros on Twitter and in addition to Bangalore Aviation, he has contributed to leading publications like Aviation Week, Conde Nast Traveller India, The Economic Times, and The Mint (a Wall Street Journal content partner). He remains a frequent flier and shares the good, the bad, and the ugly about the Indian aviation industry without fear or favour.

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