Asiana plane hits antenna in Japan runway undershoot

An Asiana Airlines Airbus A320 aircraft is seen with its evacuation slides deployed after it overran a runway at the Hiroshima airport in Mihara in Hirishima prefecture, western Japan on April 15, 2015. - AFP

TOKYO, April 15, 2015 (AFP) - An Asiana Airways plane smashed into a communications antenna as it came in to land at a Japanese airport, footage showed Wednesday, injuring 27 people in an accident redolent of the airline’s fatal 2013 crash in San Francisco.

Aerial footage from Hiroshima airport in western Japan showed the localiser -- a large gate-like structure, six metres (18 feet) high that sits some distance from the start of the runway -- splintered, with debris spread towards the landing strip.

Sets of wheelmarks were visible on the grass area in front of the runway, while at least one large fragment of the localiser -- which aircraft use to find the landing strip -- was on the tarmac.

Several hundred metres away, skid marks showed the Airbus A320 had careered off the runway and rotated more than 90 degrees. What appeared to be a chunk of the localiser was seen dangling from one wing and emergency escape chutes were deployed.

Those on board flight OZ162 from Incheon, near Seoul, to Hiroshima, spoke of terror and confusion.

“There was smoke coming out and some of the oxygen masks fell down. Cabin attendants were in such a panic and I thought‘we are going to die’,” a woman told Japanese networks late Tuesday.

All 73 passengers and eight crew members had evacuated, and no one was killed, but 25 passengers and two crew members had been injured, Japanese officials said.

An aviation safety official at the transport ministry in Tokyo told AFP that teams of investigators were on their way.

“The left side of the aircraft’s horizontal tail was damaged... but how the accident occurred should be determined as the transport safety board carry out their investigation,” he said.

The South Korean carrier said 18 passengers -- 14 Japanese, two Koreans and two Chinese -- had been hurt. Only one of them had to stay overnight in hospital. There was no explanation for the discrepancy between Asiana and the Japanese authorities.

“Asiana Airlines apologizes for causing concern to the passengers and the people over the accident,” it said in a press statement.

“Asiana Airlines has immediately set up a response team to cope with the aftermath.

“As to the determination of the cause of the accident, we will cooperate as closely as possible with the relevant authorities.”

An Asiana spokeswoman told AFP in Seoul it was checking Japanese news reports that the flight was approaching the runway at a lower altitude than normal before it grazed the communications tower near the runway.

Tuesday’s accident carries echoes of an Asiana flight that crashed in San Francisco in July, 2013, killing three people and leaving 182 injured.

US investigators concluded that a mismanaged approach for landing in a highly automated cockpit was the probable cause of the accident, in which a Boeing 777 clipped a sea wall with its landing gear, then crashed and burst into flames.

The South Korean Transport ministry ordered a 45-day suspension of Asiana Airlines’ service to San Francisco as a penalty.

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