Japanese government launches probe after parts fell from Japan Airlines plane

File photo showing a Japan Airlines aircraft at a Haneda Airport hangar in Tokyo, Japan, on April 3, 2017.
File photo showing a Japan Airlines aircraft at a Haneda Airport hangar in Tokyo, Japan, on April 3, 2017.PHOTO: REUTERS

TOKYO - Japan's transport ministry was on Friday (May 25) investigating an incident in which a malfunctioning engine on a Japan Airlines (JAL) plane ejected parts that damaged property in Kumamoto prefecture.

The problem occurred shortly after the Tokyo-bound plane took off from Kumamoto Airport on Thursday, forcing it to return for an emergency landing, Kyodo news agency reported.

The government has classified the case as a "serious incident".

A turbine blade in the rear of the left engine sustained widespread damage, but it is unlikely to have been caused by a bird strike, according to the Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism Ministry.

"I instructed JAL not to wait for the ministry's investigation but to go ahead with investigating the cause and take the necessary countermeasures," said Transport Minister Keiichi Ishii at a news conference on Friday.

The parts cracked the window of a clinic in Mashiki and also damaged a car on the premises, but no injuries were reported, local police said.

At least 10 parts, all about 5cm long, were found within a few dozen meters of the clinic, Kyodo reported.

JAL officials visited the clinic's director, Masaaki Yamamoto, on Friday to offer an apology and a promise of compensation.

"I am horrified at the thought of the engine parts hitting my grandchildren," said 70-year-old Masao Haraguchi, who lives near the clinic with his two grandchildren. Haraguchi said he found a 5cm piece of metal on his property after taking a walk at 5am.

The Boeing 767-300 carrying 209 passengers and eight crew members returned to the airport at around 3.55pm, after abnormal vibrations and a rise in exhaust gas temperature in the left engine were detected roughly three minutes after takeoff, according to JAL.