All Nippon Airways Flight 58 Collision
There was a festive air about the 155 passengers as they boarded All Nippon Airways' Flight 58 at Chitose Airport.
Most were from the sleepy town of Fuji in central Japan, members of a society of war-bereaved families who had just toured the island of Hokkaido. Half an hour later, cruising at 28,000 ft., the pilot of the Boeing 727 found himself closing in on an F-86 Sabre jet. He had time only to shout a Mayday message before his plane and the jet collided. The airliner disintegrated, showering debris for miles around and killing all 162 passengers and crew. It was the largest number of people ever to die in a single air disaster.*
The sole survivor was the Sabre-jet pilot, Sergeant Yoshimi Ichikawa, 22. A trainee with only 21 hours' flying time on the F-86, he and his instructor, who was in a second jet, had been practicing formation turns. Neither Sabre jet had radar, and it was only at the last second that Ichikawa's instructor told him to climb and turn. Ichikawa recalled later: "I saw a civilian plane approach from the rear and felt a jolt in my tail." The young pilot was able to bail out safely. Both he and his instructor were being held by police on possible involuntary homicide charges.
All Nippon flight 58 departed Sapporo (CTS) for a domestic flight to Tokyo-Haneda (HND) and climbed to an altitude of FL280. While cruising at this altitude, it approached an area where a Japan Air Self Defense Force student and his instructor were flying in their North American F-86F fighters. The trainee was not watching out for traffic when the 727 approached. The instructor ordered him to break away from the 727. It was too late. He banked to the left but the leading edge of the right wing of his F-86F (92-7932) struck the left horizontal stabilizer of the ANA plane. The fighter's right wing broke off, causing the plane to crash out of control, but the pilot ejected safely. Damage to the stabilizer caused a loss of control of the B727.
The two planes collided at 26,000 feet over Morioka, in the northern part of the main Japanese island of Honshū, 275 miles north of Tokyo. The F-86 jet fighter plunged into a rice paddy, while the wreckage of the three-engine airliner was spread over a wide area.
Most of the passengers came from Fuji, Shizuoka Prefecture and were returning from a trip to Hokkaido. Of the passengers, 125 were in a tour group made up of members of a society for relatives of Japanese servicemen killed in World War II.
Sgt. Ichikawa, the 22-year-old pilot, had only 21 hours of training in the fighter. The police said their investigation indicated the fighter had entered the corridor reserved for commercial airliners and later arrested Ichikawa, charging him with "professional negligence."
Saburo Kawanishi, 41, the pilot of the jetliner, had more than 8,000 hours of flying experience. He was able to get off a brief radio message between the time of the collision and the crash.
At the time, it was the deadliest air disaster in history. The deadliest previous aviation toll was in the crash of a Viasa Flight 742 on March 16, 1969, into a crowded section of Maracaibo, killing 155 — 84 on the plane and 71 on the ground.