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Why drunk pilots are giving airlines sleepless nights

Japan Airlines plan to introduce a new breathalyser system at airports abroad after one of its pilots was arrested at Heathrow Airport for being drunk.

Katsutoshi Jitsukawa was arrested last month after a test showed he was nine times over the legal alcohol limit.

Reports in Japan say Jitsukawa also cheated on an airline breathalyser test before his arrest. The new measures also come after a series of Japan Airlines flights were delayed due to intoxicated pilots.

Japanese law does not set limits for alcohol consumption by pilots. Instead, it is up to airlines to determine alcohol limits for pilots on duty. Jitsukawa was arrested after he was found to have 189mg of alcohol per 100ml of blood in his system – the legal limit for a pilot in the UK is 20mg.

He had earlier cheated on an in-house breathalyser test, taking it at a distance from the chief pilots who were supposed to oversee it, the Asahi Shimbun newspaper said.

The co-pilot did not blow the necessary amount of air into the device and “deliberately got around the test”, the newspaper quoted the Japan Airlines report as saying.

The chief pilots had also admitted failing to oversee the test properly, the report added.

“The company takes this violation seriously, as safety remains our utmost priority, and sincerely apologises to all affected by the employee’s actions,” Japan Airlines said in a statement.

Since August 2017, there have been 19 cases where Japan Airlines pilots have failed the company’s alcohol tests, a spokesperson for the firm said.

Twelve flights were delayed as a result, with the remaining seven operating on time because alternative crew members were found.

Japan Airlines will implement a series of measures as a result of the recent breaches. These include new breathalyser systems at overseas airports and introducing penalties “for flight crew violating the regulated alcohol concentration level”.

The new systems are already in place at Heathrow and domestic airports in Japan, the spokesperson said. They will be introduced at other airports on November 19.

Pilots will also be prohibited from consuming alcohol in the 24 hours prior to reporting for a flight from Japan, the firm said.

Other airlines have also had recent trouble with intoxicated pilots.

A British Airways pilot who turned up for work after drinking three double vodkas was jailed earlier this year.

In India, a pilot was also recently barred from flying for three years after he failed an alcohol test.

– BBC

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