Thu, Aug 23, 2007 - Page 2 News List

US group arrives in Japan to probe airliner explosion


Yu Chien-kuo, left, captain of the China Airlines' Boeing 737-800 that caught fire after landing in Okinawa, receives a gift from Vice President Annette Lu at the Presidential Office in Taipei yesterday.


A five-member US group, including three aviation officials, arrived in Okinawa yesterday to help investigate why a Boeing 737-800 of China Airlines (CAL) burst into flames minutes after landing at Naha Airport on Monday.

The three officials from the National Transportation Safety Board and the Federal Aviation Administration, arrived along with two experts from Boeing Co and are expected to meet with officials from Japan's Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transportation (MLIT) at Naha Airport to probe the cause of the fire.

The Boeing 737-800 passenger jet from Taipei caught fire shortly after landing at Naha Airport. All 157 passengers and eight crew members aboard the airliner managed to escape before the left engine exploded and engulfed the plane in a fireball.

According to preliminary investigations conducted by MLIT experts, the fire was probably caused by a problem with the fuel pipe in the plane's wing, which caught fire when it came into contact with the hot engine.

Investigators from the Japanese inquiry committee and CAL have been examining the aircraft since Tuesday to try to determine the cause of the accident.

The passengers included 110 Taiwanese, 23 Japanese and 24 people from other countries.

China Airlines meanwhile had painted over its logo on the charred remains of the burnt-out plane.

CAL official Yoko Kuroda confirmed the carrier had whitened out the corporate logo late on Tuesday with the permission of Japanese authorities.

"Our officials in Taiwan said they recognized that there was a precedent for painting over logos," said Kuroda, from the marketing branch of the airline's Tokyo office.

But Japanese media speculated that the airline was trying to minimize the effect of constant footage from Naha Airport, where investigators from the three countries are sifting through the remains of the plane just outside a boarding gate.

Meanwhile, a China Airlines flight from Taipei to Nagoya, Japan, made a detour to Kansai International Airport in Osaka last night around 8:50pm after the control tower informed the plane that there were birds on the runway, the airline said.

Airline spokesman Johnson Sun (孫鴻文) said the airplane landed at Osaka and took off again after refueling, arriving at Nagoya less than 20 minutes later.

Sun's remarks contradicted a report by the Japanese Asahi Shimbun daily, which said the airplane made a "forced landing" at Osaka because of insufficient fuel.

Additional reporting by Mo Yan-chih

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