The China Airlines Flight CI140 Memorial

After the JL123 crash, which has been the main focus of my research on memorialisation for about 13 years, and the Fukuchiyama Line derailment, the public transportation accident that I next have most of a memory of and link to is the China Airlines Flight CI140 (中華航空140便墜落事故). The crash happened at Nagoya Airport and I was living around 10km away in Seto while I was on the JET Programme.

I remember watching the news about the crash on the local news that evening after returning from a get-together. My main memory of that was being shocked at seeing the names of the passengers being listed on the TV, clearly without any thought of next-of-kin being contacted first (as would be the norm in the UK). This had also happened after the JL123 and is something that I discuss in my book Dealing with Disaster in Japan and have discussed with many of the bereaved of the JL123 crash.

Since doing my research on JL123, I have been aware of bereaved for the CI140 flight also going to Ueno-mura around 12 August – indeed one year I ended up chatting to one while in an onsen at one of the hotels in the village. I also looked into the relative lack of media coverage that is given for CI140 compared to JL123. Some years after the crash I also remember visiting an ANA pilot friend and finding that he was reading the official investigation report. Our discussion about this – particularly the battle between the flight crew and autopilot – stuck in my mind and was one of the reasons why I became alarmed when on a flight to Nice on a similar plane, the engines roared and we started lifting back up above the runway (in the end we just did a go-around as we had been ‘too high and too fast’… on the second attempt we were nearly too low and too slow). I suppose I also felt a connection to the accident since the first time I visited in Japan was having flown on China Airlines (an interesting experience and subject for another post).

I visited the memorial for the first time in 2015 and will write about that further below.

First, in terms of the accident itself, a summary of what happened can be found on Wikipedia. The key points are it was a regularly scheduled passenger flight from Chiang Kai-shek International Airport (now Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport) serving Taipei, Taiwan, to Nagoya Airport in Nagoya. On 26 April 1994, the Airbus A300B4-622R was completing a routine flight and approach, when, just seconds before landing at Nagoya Airport, the takeoff/go-around setting (TO/GA) was inadvertently triggered. The pilots attempted to pitch the aircraft down while the autopilot, which was not disabled, was pitching the aircraft up. The aircraft ultimately stalled and crashed into the ground, killing 264 of the 271 people on board. To date, the accident remains the deadliest accident in the history of China Airlines, and the second-deadliest aviation accident on Japanese soil, behind Japan Airlines Flight 123.

In terms of access, when I visited the memorial, I took the train to Ajiyoshi and walked from there, but it’s also possible to walk back from the next station, Kasugai. There is also a small car park for those visiting the memorial.

The memorial is officially called ‘Yasuragi-no-sono’ (which reminds me of Irei-no-Sono) – the ‘Garden of Eternal Rest’. Although there is a gate at the entrance, a sign makes it clear that those visiting are welcome to go in, but are asked to close the gate when leaving. There are various other rules on another sign (only written in Japanese). Most of these are common sense. One that caused an ethical/moral dilemma for me (and does again when writing this post) is that you should not go in for the purpose of taking photos. Does this mean literally for the purpose of taking photos (i.e. taking selfies, etc.) or does it mean not taking pictures of the site? Are photos for research purposes OK? This leads on to a broader question – who are memorials for? The victims? The families and friends of victims? Or for society so that we learn from mistakes and don’t forget those who have been lost in accidents?

The memorial itself is circular, split into two embankments, with a single stone path going through the middle. Stones make up the foot of these two embankments.

A panoramic view looking back towards the entrance

There are three memorials (one in Japanese, one in Chinese and one in English) with details of the crash and memorial garden.

At the right hand side of the panoramic photo you can see memorials listing the victims of the accident. Most Japanese memorials include the names of victims (though not necessarily all of the victims), so I was not surprised to see this.

At the far end of the garden is a memorial with the name of the garden surrounded by flowers, from where you can see the crash spot and airport in the distance.

Nearby is a further memorial

After visiting the memorial garden, I went to take photos of Fuji Dream Airlines (FDA) taking off from the airport. They are about the only airline that now uses this airport and their planes are noteworthy as each one is a different colour – something that I discuss in my chapter about Contents Tourism and planes in Japan. I then went to take some photos of planes and then on to Nagoya Airport itself to learn more about the Mitsubishi Regional Jet (MRJ) as it was still called at the time.

In relation to the China Airlines flight CI140 memorial, I did not see any signs of modifications to the memorial since it was first established. So, in relation to my my article looking at where modifications are made to public transportation accidents, although this crash was included within the study it’s not marked as one of those that have seen a modification (see Table 1 in that article). Given the scale of the crash, I am a bit surprised that there haven’t been any modifications – but I did find in my study, within Dealing with Disaster in Japan, on media coverage of the crash that even the local media doesn’t cover it much now. If I were to continue my research in this area, I would like to discover more about why there seemingly been any improvement and what factor(s) of the triggers that I developed in my research article was/were missing.

Update (5 July 2021): Take To The Sky Podcast has done an episode about China Airlines flight CI140 – you can find it here.

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