Picture: JAL puts flight 123 Boeing 747 crash wreckage on display to promote safety

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by Nicholas Ionides in Singapore

Japan Airlines (JAL), working to recover from much-publicised safety troubles over the past year, has established a permanent centre that includes wreckage from its last fatal accident in a move designed to raise flight safety awareness among employees.

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© Katsumi Kasahara / Empics / AP Photo

Photographers and reporters take a look at the buckled rear pressure bulkhead from JAL flight 123 that lead to Japan's worst air accident. The torn fuselage is on display at Japan Airlines Safety Promotion Centre in Tokyo in an exhibition of wreckage aimed at raising awareness about safety among its employees.

The carrier says in a statement that the Safety Promotion Centre is scheduled to open on 24 April and it has been created in response to a recommendation from a group of independent experts hired last year.

JAL says it has spent ¥180 million ($1.5 million) to set up the facility, which is located in the maintenance district of Tokyo’s Haneda Airport and which has a staff of three people. It is part of a new Corporate Safety Division that was established on 1 April as “the core organisation responsible for safety of the JAL Group”.

The airline, Asia’s largest, has not had a fatal accident since 1985 but over the past year public confidence in JAL has deteriorated and many Japanese travellers have switched their business to rival All Nippon Airways. Early last year the Japanese government publicly issued JAL an unprecedented "business improvement order" that was the result of a series of safety violations and since then even minor operational incidents involving the carrier make headlines in Japan.

JAL says exhibits in the 620m(6,700sq ft) display space include “photographs, charts and other items from a JAL 747 accident in August 1985”. The 747SR-46, in high density seating configuration, was operating as flight 123 between Tokyo and Osaka when its rear pressure bulkhead failed, severing hydraulic lines. The cockpit crew struggled to control the aircraft and it eventually crashed into the ridge of Mount Takamagahara 100 km (60miles) from Tokyo, killing more than 500 people.

The airline says items on display at the Safety Promotion Centre include “the flight data recorder, cockpit voice recorder and seats from the aircraft”. In addition, “a major exhibit is the rear pressure bulkhead from the aircraft”.

“Documentation and information providing case histories of accidents and incidents for reference and study are compiled at the centre in an archive, available for reference at any time. The centre’s displays and documents will be used for employee education and training and will also be available to serious researchers outside the company,” JAL adds.

“The centre displays information on all accidents JAL has been involved in since its founding and also includes materials showing what other airlines in Japan and throughout the world have learned from accidents, and how they have applied their learning to improve safety.”

A spokesman for the airline, which plans to join the Oneworld alliance next year, says the centre was set up for employee use but members of the public may be allowed in “on application”.