The Japan Coast Guard plane that collided with a Japan Airline jetliner at Tokyo's Haneda airport did not have permission to enter the runway, according to flight control communications released on Wednesday by Japan's transport ministry.
But the coast guard said its aircraft's captain, who survived the previous day's accident that killed all five of his colleagues, gave a conflicting account, telling its investigators that he had been cleared to enter the runway where the collision happened.
"There was nothing that can be regarded as permission to enter the runway (for the coast guard plane) in the transcript of the communications," Toshiyuki Onuma, senior deputy director general of the Civil Aviation Bureau at the transport ministry, told a press briefing.
A coast guard official attending the same press briefing acknowledged a discrepancy between the communications data and what the captain told the investigators, saying the coast guard will fully cooperate with police and the transport authorities in the investigations.
The data released by the ministry showed that the last communications between air traffic controllers and the JAL aircraft took place approximately two minutes before the collision, with them telling the JAL pilot that the runway was clear for landing and the pilot reading back that permission.
The coast guard pilot last contacted the control tower within the same timeframe to say "taxi to holding point" in reading back their instruction, according to the data.
A holding point is a spot where an airplane waits for clearance to enter a runway, according to the transport ministry.
Based on the communications in the transcript, the ministry said air traffic control was conducted appropriately before the collision.
JAL said Wednesday that the plane's crew members told the company they proceeded with landing after clearance from the tower and no abnormalities were detected during aircraft's flight.
"It's up to ongoing investigations to see if we did anything wrong, but we think we did our operations just as usual," JAL Managing Executive Officer Tadayuki Tsutsumi told reporters.
On Wednesday, the Japan Transport Safety Board, the government agency in charge of probing serious accidents involving airplanes, trains and ships, examined the aircraft wreckage.
The safety board said earlier in the day it had retrieved the flight and voice recorders of the coast guard aircraft and was still searching for those of the JAL plane that arrived in Tokyo from Sapporo.
The Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department has also launched an investigation into the accident on suspicion of professional negligence resulting in death and injury.
The accident, which occurred around 5:47 p.m., forced the temporary closure of all four runways at Japan's busiest airport. All except the one where the collision occurred were reopened Tuesday after the cancellation of many flights.
JAL canceled more than 40 domestic flights to and from Haneda airport on Wednesday. All Nippon Airways Co. also canceled over 50 domestic flights, with some international flights affected.
All 379 passengers and crew aboard the JAL Airbus A350 escaped with 14 sustaining non-life-threatening injuries despite it catching fire immediately after the collision, the company said. The fire was finally brought under control more than eight hours later.
The escape of all passengers and crew, which took 18 minutes, has been widely praised, with some foreign media describing it as a "miracle." JAL said its training programs paid off.
Airbus SAS, in a statement Tuesday, said it will dispatch a team of specialists "to provide technical assistance" to Japan's safety board. It expressed sadness over the coast guard members' deaths.
The severely damaged JAL plane, equipped with engines produced by Britain's Rolls-Royce plc, was received in November 2021, Airbus said.
Japan's coast guard said its Bombardier DHC8-300 aircraft, based at Haneda airport, was heading to Niigata Prefecture to deliver relief supplies for people hit by the magnitude-7.6 earthquake that struck the Noto Peninsula and surrounding areas on the Sea of Japan coast on Monday.