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Measures Against Objects Falling Off Airplanes

by Shinichi Yamada


As Japan is an island country, airports and ports are considered to be the key for sustained growth. In particular, Haneda Airport and Narita Airport in the metropolitan area are very important because they are the entrance points for many foreigners. Currently, Japan plans to increase the number of flight slots through a re-examination of runway capacity, revision of runway operations and flight routes at Haneda Airport, and construction of high-speed taxiways at Narita Airport. These measures will be implemented by the year 2020.

In the new runway operations and flight paths at Haneda Airport, airplanes will be able to fly over the city center of Tokyo. Because it is very important for local municipalities and residents to gain an understanding of these changes, the Government of Japan has been offering careful explanations to them. During such explanatory meetings, many residents made various requests of thorough noise prevention measures and particularly thorough safety measures; one of the major concerns for them is the risk of the objects falling off airplanes. If objects fell off airplanes, damages of third parties may occur which may significantly impact safe operations.

There are concerns by some Tokyo residents of airplanes flying directly over the city.

( 羽田空港D滑走路 Han eda Airport by nekotank is licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0)


The Government of Japan has been requiring Japanese air carriers to report PDAs (Parts Departing Aircraft) since 2009. Although the number of reported PDAs decreased slightly after that, it increased in 2017.

Japan has already implemented various measures against objects falling off airplanes. For example, completing drainage of water in the water supply pipes before take-off to prevent ice blocks from falling off, requesting air carriers to complete maintenance and safety inspections, and requesting aircraft manufacturers to improve designs and prevent incidences of falling parts.

However, recent serious occurrences of objects falling off airplanes has raised huge public attention. In September 2017, a large panel fell from an airplane onto a car driving on a busy street in Osaka. In May 2018, an airplane that had just taken off at Kumamoto Airport experienced engine failure, and more than 100 metallic fragments, which are suspected to have been part of the engine, fell onto the ground, houses, and cars below. Fortunately, no one was injured, but the incident caused the damage of a window in a hospital, windows of cars, etc. These events were broadly reported to the public by the mass media. There have been other recent cases of damage caused by objects falling off airplanes in addition to those mentioned above. Moreover, not only airplane parts, but also ice blocks sometimes have fallen onto the ground. Therefore, anxiety and concern of residents toward objects falling off airplanes has been augmented.

A view after take off from Haneda Airport

( 20150125_Haneda-TSA_3052 by Ray Swi-hymn  is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 Enhanced for better picture quality )


In March 2018, a council of various stakeholders including air carriers, maintenance organizations, aircraft manufacturers, etc. in Japan penned “Enhanced Measures to Prevent Objects Falling off Airplanes”, and have decided to take action as follows:

  • Utilize the newly created booklet “Implementation of Measures to Prevent Objects Falling off Airplanes,” which introduces actual examples of preventive measures.

    • Hardware side: Aircraft modification, etc.

    • Software side: Inspection/maintenance, education and training, systems to conduct root cause analysis, preventive measures of recurrence when parts departing from airplanes and falling ice blocks occur, etc.

  • Utilize the newly created booklet “Implementation of Measures to Prevent Objects Falling off Airplanes,” which introduces actual examples of preventive measures.

  • Strengthen the aircraft inspection. The number of ramp inspections is to increase and airport administrators are to introduce new inspections.

Japan established the “Standard to Prevent Objects Falling off Airplanes” in August 2018. For foreign air carriers flying in/from Japan, Japan plans to enforce the “Standard to Prevent Objects Falling off Airplanes” from March 2019, and also plans to establish a relief system for damage caused by objects falling off airplanes.

November 2018

Feature Article

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