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Japanese airliner commandeered by knife-wielding man

January 20, 1997

TOKYO (AP) _ A man hijacked a domestic flight Monday with threats and a kitchen knife, but apparently dropped his demands and was arrested after the plane landed in southern Japan.

None of the 192 people on the All Nippon Airways flight from Osaka to the southwestern city of Fukuoka was hurt and no other injuries were reported. News reports quoted police as saying the hijacker was drunk and possibly mentally troubled.

The hijacker commandeered ANA Flight 217 halfway into its one-hour trip from Osaka when he entered the cockpit with a 6-inch knife, said a spokeswoman for the airlines, Naomi Okimoto.

The Boeing 777 arrived on schedule at Fukuoka International Airport, 560 miles southwest of Tokyo, after the pilot notified authorities of the hijacking. The airport was closed for more than an hour.

The hijacker demanded to be flown to another country, but agreed to let the passengers leave the plane first. It was unclear where he wanted to go.

Police arrested Yuichi Yano, 31, about a half-hour later as he walked off the plane with other passengers. It was unclear why he got off.

Yano was charged with illegal possession of a weapon, said police spokesman Masanori Hayashi.

Local news reports quoted police immediately after the arrest as saying he was drunk, and Kyodo News agency quoted Fukuoka police later as saying the jobless man from Osaka had psychiatric troubles.

State-run NHK television showed the plane parked at an airport terminal building, with an elevated walkway attached to the front hatch. The pilot and co-pilot could be seen through the windshield, sitting still.

NHK reported that passengers never knew the hijacker was in the cockpit.

``We had no hint of it,″ one passenger said. ``We were just told to wait, presumably because it was crowded, and then were told about it after we got off the plane.″

The hijacking was the second in Japan in recent years attempted with a small weapon.

In 1995, a bank employee hijacked a plane from Tokyo to the northern island of Hokkaido, using a screwdriver and a bag containing what he claimed was poison gas. He held 364 people captive for 16 hours before he was arrested in a raid.

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