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Crashed Japan Airlines Flight from 1985 Showed Up on Radar Last Week

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Rene’s Points For Better Travel, a division of Chatterbox Entertainment, Inc. has partnered with CardRatings for our coverage of credit card products. Rene’s Points For Better Travel and CardRatings may receive a commission from card issuers. Opinions, reviews, analyses & recommendations are the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, endorsed or approved by any of these entities. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.


Thirty-five years ago today, Japan Airlines flight 123 crashed, killing over 500 people. But here’s something spooky: JL123 was spotted on radar last Wednesday.

And there’s an even eerier twist to the story.

The Crash of Japan Airlines Flight 123

August 1985 was not necessarily a happy month for commercial aviation.

Delta Air Lines flight 191 experienced a weather event while landing at DFW. The Lockheed L-1011 crashed, killing 136 passengers and one motorist.

Ten days later, August 12, Japan Airlines flight 123 from Tokyo Haneda to Osaka crashed about 45 minutes after takeoff. The Boeing 747-146SR experienced a rapid decompression, which Wikipedia says resulted in “bringing down the ceiling around the rear lavatories, damaging the unpressurized fuselage aft of the plane, unseating the vertical stabilizer, and severing all four hydraulic lines. A photograph taken from the ground confirmed that the vertical stabilizer was missing.”

Following a series of maneuvers the flight crew hoped would alleviate the problems as much as possible, JL123 crashed into mountains in the Gunma Prefecture.

The crash killed 520 people. Miraculously, four passengers survived.

JL123 Briefly “Returned” to Radar — Last Week

Most airlines retire a flight number when something tragic happens.

So as Vice’s Miran Miyano reports, some eagle-eyed AvGeeks were a little alarmed last Wednesday. They spotted (on FlightRadar24) JL123 operating at Tokyo Narita.

Per Google Translate: “No, this is too scary… Fixed altitude of 50 ft to ground, direction is ‘random’, ‘rolling’, and above all, that number is JL123.”

Here’s where things get even more interesting.

August 13 marks the start of the Obon Festival — a Japanese Buddhist festival of the dead, if you will.

Floating lanterns on the water in Kanazawa city, Japan
Floating lanterns on the water in Kanazawa city, Japan (©iStock.com/MasaoTaira)

Japan Guide says, “It is believed that each year during [Obon], the ancestors’ spirits return to this world in order to visit their relatives.”

You already know where this is going.

Twitter user @ponk_kamo tweeted something that roughly translates into, “It’s the Obon festival, so maybe they’re back.”

Does anyone else have chills yet?

Was It Really JL123 Back from the Dead?

I love supernatural and ghost stories.

Unfortunately, there’s a logical explanation for this one.

It turns out that this was a Japan Airlines 777 maintenance operation. And someone decided “123” would be a good, random number to assign.

Whoops.

Sora News writes, “This JL123 was actually flight JL712, returning to Narita from Singapore. However, between 11:56 p.m. and 12:22 a.m. it was relabeled JL123, a number arbitrarily selected by one of the IT staff.”

Japan Airlines said (translated), “We used to set an arbitrary flight number for maintenance work, so we used numbers in the order of 0123. While doing maintenance for the return, (we) input a dummy flight number with a serial number of 0123 to confirm the operation, and it seems that this coincided with the missing number due to the accident. In the future, we will try to prevent recurrence by creating rules for setting flight numbers. We apologize for the inconvenience, and are very sorry.”

— Chris

Featured image: ©iStock.com/Chalabala

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Rene’s Points For Better Travel, a division of Chatterbox Entertainment, Inc. has partnered with CardRatings for our coverage of credit card products. Rene’s Points For Better Travel and CardRatings may receive a commission from card issuers. Opinions, reviews, analyses & recommendations are the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, endorsed or approved by any of these entities. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.


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