Tag Archives: Japan Air Lines

12 August 1985

Japan Air Lines’ Boeing 747-146SR, JA8119. (Robin787)

12 August 1985: The worst accident involving a single aircraft occurred when a Boeing 747 operated by Japan Air Lines crashed into a mountain in the Gunma Prefecture, killing 520 persons. There were just 4 survivors.

JAL Flight 123 was a Boeing 747-146SR, registration JA8119. It departed Tokyo International Airport enroute Osaka International Airport. There were 15 crewmembers, led by Captain Masami Takahama, with First Officer Yutaka Sasaki and Second Officer Hiroshi Fukuda. There were 509 passengers aboard.

Flight 123 lifted off at 6:12 p.m., 12 minutes behind schedule. 12 minutes after takeoff, as the 747 was at its cruising altitude, the fuselage rear pressure bulkhead suddenly failed, causing explosive decompression of the cabin. Cabin air then rushed into the unpressurized tail section. The resulting overpressure caused a failure of the APU bulkhead and the support structure for the vertical fin. The airliner’s vertical fin separated from the fuselage. All four of the 747’s hydraulic systems were ruptured. The hydraulic system was quickly depleted, leaving the crew unable to move any flight control surfaces.

JAL 123 following loss of its vertical fin.

Control of the airplane began to quickly deteriorate and the only control left was to vary the thrust on the four turbofan engines. The flight crew began an emergency descent and declared an emergency.

For the next 32 minutes, JA8119 flew in large uncontrolled arcs. The 747 rolled into banks as steep as 60°, and at one point, the nose pitched down into a dive reaching 18,000 feet per minute (91 meters per second). The crew was able to bring the 747 back to a nose-high attitude at about 5,000 feet (1,524 meters), but again lost control. At 6:56 p.m., JAL 123 disappeared from air traffic control radar.

Mount Takamagahara, 1,978.6 meters above Sea Level. (Σ64, via Wikipedia)

The airliner struck a ridge on 1,978.6 meter (6,491.5 feet) Mount Takamagahara at 340 knots (391 miles per hour, or 630 kilometers per hour), then impacted a second time at an elevation of 5,135 feet (1,565 meters). The aircraft was totally destroyed.

Investigation of the accident determined that the 747 had previously been damaged when its tail struck the runway during a landing, 2 June 1978. The rear pressure bulkhead had cracked as a result of the tail strike, but was repaired by a team of Boeing technicians. After the crash, it was discovered that the repair had not been correctly performed. Boeing engineers calculated that it could be expected to fail after 10,000 cycles. It was on the 12,219th cycle when the bulkhead failed.

Boeing 747-146SR JA8119 had accumulated a total of 25,030 flight hours by the time of the accident, on 18,835 flights.

Computer-generated image depicting the damage to JAL Flight 123. (Anynobody via Wikipedia)

© 2017, Bryan R. Swopes

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14 February 2012

Boeing YAL-1A, 00-0001, Airborne Laser Test aircraft, departing Edwards AFB, 14 February 2012. (U.S. Air Force)
Boeing YAL-1A, 00-0001, Airborne Laser Test Aircraft, departing Edwards AFB, 14 February 2012. (U.S. Air Force)
Terrier Black Brant IX two-stage sounding rocket. (NASA)
Terrier Black Brant IX two-stage sounding rocket. (NASA)

14 February 2012: Boeing YAL-1A Airborne Laser Test Bed, serial number 00-0001, departed Edwards AFB for the last time as it headed for The Boneyard at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Tucson, Arizona.

The Boeing YAL-1A was built from a 747-4G4F, a converted 747-400F freighter, serial number 30201, formerly operated by Japan Air Lines and registered JA402J. It carried two solid state lasers and a megawatt-class oxygen iodine directed energy weapon system (COIL).

On 3 February 2010, it destroyed a Terrier Black Brant two-stage sounding rocket in the boost phase as it was launched from San Nicolas Island, off the coast of Southern California.

Boeing YAL-1A 00-0001, Airborne Laser test aircraft, in flight. The laser aiming turret is directed toward the photo aircraft. (U.S. Air Force)
Boeing YAL-1A 00-0001, Airborne Laser Test Aircraft, in flight. The laser aiming turret is directed toward the photo aircraft. (U.S. Air Force)

The 747-400 was a major development of the 747 series. It had many structural and electronics improvements over the earlier models, which had debuted 18 years earlier. New systems, such as a “glass cockpit”, flight management computers, and new engines allowed it to be flown with a crew of just two pilots, and the position of Flight Engineer became unnecessary.

The most visible features of the –400 are its longer upper deck and the six-foot tall “winglets” at the end of each wing, which improve aerodynamic efficiency be limiting the formation of wing-tip vortices.

The Boeing 747-400F is the freighter version of the 747-400 airliner. It has a shorter upper deck, no passenger windows and the nose can swing upward to allow cargo pallets or containers to be loaded. It is 231 feet, 10 inches (70.663 meters) long with a wingspan of 211 feet, 5 inches (64.440 meters) and overall height of 63 feet, 8 inches (19.406 meters). Empty weight is 394,100 pounds (178,761 kilograms). Maximum takeoff weight (MTOW) is 875,000 pounds (396,893 kilograms).

The YAL-1A was powered by four General Electric CF6-80C2B5F turbofan engines, producing 62,100 pounds of thrust (276.235 kilonewtons), each. The CF6-80C2B5F is a two-spool, high-bypass-ratio turbofan engine. It has a single-stage fan section, 18-stage compressor (4 low- and 14 high-pressure stages) and 7-stage turbine section (2 high- and 5 low-pressure stages). The fan diameter is 7 feet, 9.0 inches (2.362 meters). The engine is 13 feet, 4.9 inches (4.087 meters) long with a maximum diameter of 8 feet, 10.0 inches (2.692 meters). It weighs 9,760 pounds (4,427 kilograms).

It had a cruise speed of 0.84 Mach (555 miles per hour, 893 kilometers per hour) at 35,000 feet (10,668 meters) and maximum speed of 0.92 Mach (608 miles per hour, 978 kilometers hour). Maximum range at maximum payload weight is 7,260 nautical miles (13,446 kilometers).

Boeing YAL-1A in storage at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, 27 August 2014. The airframe was disassembled and finally broken up 25 September 2014. (Soracat)

© 2017, Bryan R. Swopes

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8 February 2012

Boeing 747-100SR, N911NA, NASA 911, Space Shuttle Carrier makes its last landing, at Air Force Plant 42, Palmdale, California, 8 February 2012. (NASA)
NASA 911, a modified Boeing 747-100SR transport, FAA registration N911NA, one of two NASA Space Shuttle Carrier Aircraft, makes its final landing at Air Force Plant 42, Palmdale, California, 8 February 2012. (NASA)

8 February 2012: End of an era. NASA 911, the Boeing 747-100SR that has been used as a space shuttle carrier, made its last flight on Wednesday, 8 February 2012, a 20-minute hop from Edwards Air Force Base to Palmdale Plant 42. In 38 years, this airplane accumulated 33,004.1 flight hours, which is relatively low time for an airliner. It will be cannibalized for parts to keep another NASA 747 flying.

NASA 911 (Boeing serial number 20781) made its first flight 31 August 1973, registered as JA8817, and flew in commercial service for fifteen years. It was obtained by NASA in 1989 and turned over to Boeing for modification as the second Space Shuttle Carrier Aircraft.

NASA's fleet of Space Shuttle Carrier Aircraft, NASA 905 (foreground) and NASA 911, (background). NASA)
NASA’s fleet of Space Shuttle Carrier Aircraft, NASA 905 (foreground) and NASA 911. (NASA)

The 747-100SR is a short-range, high-capacity airliner variant produced by Boeing for Japan Air Lines. It was strengthened to handle the additional takeoffs and landings of short-duration flights. Additional structural support was built into the fuselage, wings and landing gear, while the fuel capacity was reduced 20% from that of the standard 747-100. Seven were built between 1973 and 1975.

It is 231 feet, 10.2 inches (70.668 meters) long with a wingspan of 195 feet, 8 inches (59.639 meters) and overall height of 63 feet, 5 inches (19.329 meters). Its empty weight is 323,034 pounds (146,526 kilograms) and maximum takeoff weight 710,000 pounds (322,050 kilograms).

NASA 911 was equipped with more powerful JT9D-7J engines in place of the standard airplane’s JT9D-7A engines. This increased thrust from 46,950 pounds to 50,000 pounds (222.41 kilonewtons) each. The JT9D-7J is a two-spool, axial-flow turbofan engine with a single stage fan section, 14-stage compressor section and 4-stage turbine. This engine has a maximum diameter of 7 feet, 11.6 inches (2.428 meters), is 12 feet, 10.2 inches (3.917 meters) long and weighs 8,850 pounds (4,014 kilograms).

While carrying a space shuttle, the SCA maximum speed is 0.6 Mach (432 miles per hour, or 695  kilometers per hour). The service ceiling is 15,000 feet (4,572 meters) and its range is 1,150 miles (1,850.75 kilometers).

A NASA Space Shuttle Carrier Aircraft takes off from Edwards Air Force Base, California with the Space Shuttle Orbiter Endeavour. (NASA)
A NASA Space Shuttle Carrier Aircraft takes off from Edwards Air Force Base, California with the Space Shuttle Orbiter Endeavour. (NASA)

NASA 911 is on display at the Joe Davies Heritage Airpark, Palmdale, California.

© 2017, Bryan R. Swopes

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