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Japanese officials urge airline safety following hijacking

January 21, 1997

TOKYO (AP) _ Japanese authorities scolded an airline today for delays in keeping officials informed during a brief hijacking the day before.

Transport Ministry officials asked All Nippon Airways to explain why the company and its pilot had waited 25 minutes after an automatic hijack alert signal sounded to confirm it with air traffic controllers.

The hijacker, who tried to commandeer an Osaka-to-Fukuoka flight on Monday evening using a kitchen knife, was arrested shortly after the plane landed in Fukuoka. There were no injuries among the 192 people aboard.

``We realize that the pilot may have been threatened at the time, but we want to be sure everything possible was done to keep authorities informed,″ said ministry official Yutaka Doi.

Doi said for some time officials had no idea whether the plane had been redirected or if passengers were hurt. ``Usually in hijackings, a pilot radios in more information,″ he said.

ANA officials, however, said they did their best to update officials during the tense flight, and the pilot could not have done more without risking a confrontation with the hijacker.

Doi also said ministry officials want an explanation for how the suspect, Yuichi Yano, who was charged with hijacking today, was able to carry a 6-inch kitchen knife onto the plane in a paper bag.

Speaking on condition of anonymity, an ANA spokesman said the pilot sent a ``hijacking″ signal to company headquarters four minutes after the armed man _ described by news reports as drunk _ entered the cockpit.

But because the pilot was being held at knifepoint, he couldn’t send an additional alert to authorities, which would have involved manipulating controls, the spokesman said.

For the same reason, the pilot also couldn’t use the voice radio to confirm ANA’s repeated attempts to contact him for confirmation of the in-house signal, the spokesman said.

The spokesman said the pilot convinced the hijacker the plane would have to land in Fukuoka as scheduled to refuel before the unspecified international flight the hijacker was demanding.

After landing, the pilot talked the hijacker into letting the passengers leave the plane, then assured him that no police had been called and he could blend in with the other passengers as they left the plane, the spokesman said.

Police arrested Yano in a departure lobby a half-hour after the plane landed after someone pointed him out, Fukuoka officials said.

Update hourly