Andrzej Jeziorski/SINGAPORE

The death of an All Nippon Airways (ANA) Boeing 747-400 captain at the hands of a knife-wielding hijacker has caused a tightening of security at all Japanese airports. His method of beating security has become clear.

According to ANA, the Japanese transport ministry has instructed all airports to implement "phase two" of security improvement plans. This is understood to mean stricter checks of carry-on baggage, with more security staff on duty.

The hijacker, unemployed Yuji Nishizawa, sent several written warnings of security flaws to the airport authorities in the months before seizing control of flight NH 61 on 23 July. The aircraft was carrying 503 passengers and 14 crew from Tokyo Haneda Airport to Chitose Airport, Sapporo.

The hijacker first flew to Osaka and back, with a bag containing a knife checked in as hold luggage. On retrieving the bag at Haneda, Nishizawa immediately returned to the boarding gate for the Sapporo flight, carrying his bag.

The hijacking occurred after Nishizawa entered the cockpit, holding a cabin attendant at knifepoint. He then forced the First Officer to leave the cockpit, and it is understood that the captain suffered a fatal neck wound in a struggle. The hijacker handled the controls alone for several minutes, descending to 980ft (300m) before he was overpowered.

ANA has declined to comment on details. It is understood, however, that Nishizawa was a computer flight simulation enthusiast with a history of mental illness. He was arrested when the aircraft landed at Haneda, about 30min after the event began. According to some reports, the landing was carried out by an off-duty captain.

The last such incident in Japan was in January 1997, when an ANA flight from Osaka to Fukuoka was hijacked by a man with a knife.

Source: Flight International