Canadian Pacific Air Lines Flight 402

On March 4, 1966, Canadian Pacific Air Lines Flight 402 (CP402) struck the approach lights and a seawall during a night landing attempt in poor visibility at Tokyo International Airport in Japan. Of the 62 passengers and 10 crew, only 8 passengers survived. An American Broadcasting Company news vice-president who had been touring the network's Asian bureau was among the 64 fatalities.

Canadian Pacific Airlines Flight 402
Canadian Pacific DC-8-43.jpg
A Douglas DC-8-43 of Canadian Pacific Airlines, similar to the accident aircraft
DateMarch 4, 1966
SummaryPilot error
SiteTokyo, Japan
35°32′16″N 139°48′23″E / 35.5377°N 139.8065°E / 35.5377; 139.8065Coordinates: 35°32′16″N 139°48′23″E / 35.5377°N 139.8065°E / 35.5377; 139.8065
Aircraft typeDouglas DC-8-43
Aircraft nameEmpress of Edmonton
OperatorCanadian Pacific Air Lines
Flight originKai Tak International Airport, Hong Kong
StopoverHaneda International Airport, Tokyo, Japan
DestinationVancouver Int'l Airport, British Columbia, Canada

Course of eventsEdit

The aircraft involved was a McDonnell Douglas DC-8-43, registration CF-CPK,[1] c/n 45761/237, delivered to the airline on October 14, 1965.

Flight 402 was a Hong Kong to Tokyo to Vancouver flight, which took off at 16:14 Japan Time from Kai Tak International Airport on the first leg of the journey. The flight was in a holding pattern for almost one hour, waiting for visibility at the destination to improve from landing minima. The tower controller cleared the flight for an instrument approach when visibility improved, but the crew had to abort the approach when visibility dropped again. At 20:05 local time, the pilot radioed the control tower that he was diverting to Taiwan, and was told the visibility at the airport had increased above minimums again to five-eighths of a mile. The pilot then decided to make another approach before diverting.

The ground-controlled approach was normal until the aircraft was seen on the precision approach radar suddenly descending below the glide slope. At 850 m (2,800 ft) from the runway threshold, the aircraft's landing gear struck part of the approach lighting system. The pilot lost control of the aircraft as it hit several more obstructions, including the 2 m (7 ft) seawall at the runway threshold, leaving a half mile long trail of burning wreckage on the airfield.


The Japanese government-appointed investigation team concluded in their report, issued two years later, that there was no fault in the airport's control tower. They stated the cause was pilot error, while acknowledging that poor visibility could have caused an optical illusion that confused the pilot. The probable cause statement was that the "Pilot misjudged landing approach under unusually difficult weather conditions."

Cluster of crashes in JapanEdit

This accident was one of five fatal aircraft disasters—four commercial and one military—in Japan in 1966. Less than 24 hours later, BOAC Flight 911, a Boeing 707, taxied past the still smoldering wreckage of the DC-8, then broke up in flight shortly after departure when it encountered extreme clear-air turbulence in the lee of Mount Fuji while flying the opposite direction towards Hong Kong, killing all 124 passengers and crew. This brought the total death toll from both accidents in the Tokyo area to 188, then a record for a 24-hour period.

Less than a month before, All Nippon Airways Flight 60, a Boeing 727, crashed into Tokyo Bay while on approach to land at the same airport, killing all 133 aboard. In addition, two other incidents occurred, on August 26 and November 13. The combined effect of these five accidents shook public confidence in commercial aviation in Japan, and both Japan Air Lines and All Nippon Airways were forced to cut back some domestic service due to reduced demand.


  • "The Worst Single Day". Time. 1966-03-11. Archived from the original on 2007-06-20. Retrieved 2007-06-02. Ironically, the doomed 707 had just taxied out for its takeoff past the wreckage of Canadian Pacific's Hong Kong-to-Tokyo flight.
  • Reuters (1966-03-19). "Japan's airlines cut Tokyo-Osaka runs". The New York Times. p. 58. Japan Air Lines and All Nippon Airways announced today a reduction in their flights between Tokyo and Osaka following three air crashes in the last six weeks.
  • Associated Press (1968-02-26). "Airport Absolved In 1966 Crash, TOKYO (AP)". Winnipeg Free Press. A Japanese government-appointed team investigating the cause of the crash of a Canadian Pacific Airline DC-8 jetliner at Tokyo International Airport two years ago sent a final report to the Canadian government concluding that there was no fault at the airport's control tower.[dead link]
  • Reuters (1968-03-04). "Pilot Blamed in Crash". Winnipeg Free Press. An official Japanese report said Sunday the crash of a Canadian Pacific Airline DC-8 jetliner at Tokyo International Airport two years ago today was believed to have happened because the pilot misjudged his landing approach in foggy weather.[dead link]
  • "ASN Aircraft accident description Douglas DC-8-43 CF-CPK – Tokyo-Haneda Airport (HND)". Aviation Safety Network. Retrieved 2007-06-02. Tokyo cleared Flight 402 for another GCA approach to runway 33R. At 1 mile from touchdown the aircraft was 20 feet below the GCA glide path and was instructed to level off momentarily.