From the moment a Japan Airlines passenger jet collided with a smaller plane on a runway in Tokyo on Tuesday, it took crew 18 minutes to get all 367 travellers off the plane and safely accounted for.
Reconstructing the scene based on crew accounts, officials at Japan’s second-biggest airline on Wednesday said crew followed emergency procedures in textbook fashion, starting with the first rule: panic control.
As soon as the Airbus A350 wide-body jet came to a stop, cabin attendants called out to passengers to remain calm as bright-orange flames engulfed large areas of the plane and smoke quickly filled the cabin.
The crew quickly sized up the situation with visual checks of the exterior and decided which of the eight emergency exits were safe for use.
They then used short, direct commands, as they are trained to do, such as “leave your luggage” and “not this door”, officials said.
Some passengers interviewed at the airport late on Tuesday credited the swift evacuation drill with saving their lives.
“I heard an explosion about 10 minutes after everyone and I got off the plane,” said 28-year-old Tsubasa Sawada. “I can only say it was a miracle, we could have died if we were late.”