How 379 passengers escaped the burning Japan Airbus A350 flight in under 20 minutes

Neil Connery explains how passengers escaped the burning Japan Airlines Airbus A350 flight unscathed

Words by Rachel Dixon, Multimedia Producer

In just 20 minutes, hundreds of passengers and crew members managed to safely evacuate a Japan Airlines plane before it was fully engulfed in flames.

All 379 people on JAL Flight 516, including eight children under the age of two, survived after the plane they were on crashed into a plane operated by the Japan Coast Guard at Tokyo’s Haneda airport on Tuesday.

Five people on the coast guard plane died.

Here's what happened and how the crew on Japan Airline's Airbus A350 managed to get everyone to safety.

Before the crash The Japan Airways flight departed from Hokkaido in the north of Japan, flying south to Haneda Airport, in Tokyo on Tuesday morning.

At the same time, the coastguard plane had been due to fly to Niigata, in the west of the country, to deliver aid to victims of an 7.8 magnitude earthquake on Monday.

Where each of the planes were to fly to and from. Credit: ITV

It's thought the two aircrafts collided as the passenger jet landed on the runway.

Fire sparked

Passenger Satoshi Yamake told CNN when the flight landed that he initially didn’t feel anything out of the ordinary.

“We landed normally, didn’t feel a shock or anything,” Mr Yamake told CNN at Haneda airport after he was evacuated from the crash.

He added that he saw a fire shortly before an announcement was made to evacuate the plane.

The Japan Airlines flight was making its landing at Tokyo's Haneda Airport when it collided with another plane. Inside, the aircraft filled with smoke while the flames sparked

“But then we saw fire coming out of the engines and I found it strange," Mr Yamake said. "Just as I was thinking why the fire was burning for so long, an announcement came and said we probably hit something on the runway and we have to now evacuate the plane.”

“We could smell some smoke but passengers were not panicking a lot,” Mr Yamade said, adding that he “was not really scared.”

Footage taken from inside the airplane also shows one of the engines on fire.

How did everyone manage to escape?

Quick thinking, calmness and chutes were the key factors in getting a plane-full of people to safety.

A passenger told NHK television that cabin attendants remained calm and told everyone to leave their baggage behind.

Then all lights went off and the temperature inside the cabin started rising.

Firefighters are seen near the part of the burnt Japanese Coast Guard aircraft on the runway of Haneda. Credit: AP

The passenger said she was afraid she might not get off the plane alive.

Swede Anton Deibe, 17, a passenger on the Japan Airlines plane, told Swedish newspaper Aftonbladet “the entire cabin was filled with smoke within a few minutes. We threw ourselves down on the floor. Then the emergency doors were opened and we threw ourselves at them."

"The smoke in the cabin stung like hell. It was a hell," she added.

The plane, which was only two years old, featured state of the art fire control measures.

The A350-900 has eight emergency exits: two in the front, two in the back, and four in the middle.

Footage from the incident seems to suggest only two front exits and one at the back opened, with emergency slides inflated.

Yet, passengers and crew members slid down the escape chutes to safety.

Safety consultant John Cox said the cabin crew “did a remarkably great job” getting passengers out of the plane.

“It shows good training,“ Cox said. “And if you look at the video, people are not trying to get stuff out of the overheads. They are concentrating on getting out of the airplane.”

Japan's prime minister also highlighted the calmness of the passengers. Videos showed them helping each other off the plane's emergency chutes.

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