04:52 GMT +324 October 2019
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    This picture taken on April 29, 2014 shows Japanese air carrier Japan Airlines planes parked on the tarmac at Tokyo's Haneda airport

    Japan to Impose Mandatory Alcohol Tests for Pilots Following Repeat Offenses

    © AFP 2019 / Yoshikazu TSUNO
    Asia & Pacific
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    Months after a Japan Airlines pilot was arrested at London's Heathrow Airport for being nearly 10 times over the legal blood alcohol limit in the UK, officials with Japan's Transport Ministry agreed on Wednesday to require that all pilots undergo tests prior to takeoff.

    The recently agreed upon proposal, which will be officially presented on Friday, also indicates that the blood alcohol limit will stand at 0.09 milligrams per liter for pilots, according to AFP.

    Presently, Japanese flight laws only stipulate that flight staff are barred from drinking within eight hours of a shift. However, breath tests are not legally required, and no alcohol limit has officially been set by government authorities.

    The move to impose new rules came after British authorities arrested 45-year-old Katsutoshi Jitsukawa, a Japan Airlines pilot, in October just an hour before he was scheduled to depart from Heathrow. British officials were initially tipped off to the drunken pilot after an airport bus driver took notice of Kitsukawa's behavior.

    A breath test administered by airport officials later revealed 189 milligrams of alcohol per 100 milliliters of blood in his system. According to Channel News Asia, the alcohol limit for pilots in the UK stands at 20 milligrams. Jitsukawa reportedly consumed two bottles of wine and more than 1.87 liters of beer in a six-hour period.

    Following an investigation into the incident, officials also found that Jitsukawa had in fact cleared a Japan Airlines breath test that was administered by a fellow staffer. "We are certain [the in-house breath test] wasn't conducted properly," Muneaki Kitahara, communications chief for Japan Airlines, told AFP at the time.

    Jitsukawa was ultimately sentenced to 10 months in prison by UK Judge Philip Matthews, who called the fired pilot's behavior an "abject disgrace," the BBC reported.

    "You are an experienced pilot, but you had clearly been drinking for a long period up to a time shortly before you were due to go into that plane," Matthews said. "The prospect of you taking over control of that aircraft is too appalling to contemplate. The potential consequences for those on board was catastrophic."

    Just a day before the Japan Airlines mishap, Japanese airliner All Nippon Airways received backlash after it revealed that one of its pilots, who was suffering from a hangover, had caused massive delays after calling out sick.

    As a result of the incident, Japan Airlines saw its headquarters in Tokyo and other offices raided in November by officials with Japan's Transport Ministry. Similar inspections were carried out with All Nippon Airways Co. and Tokyo-based Skymark Airlines Inc.

    Japan Airlines confirmed in November that since August of 2017, the company had been notified of 19 cases in which pilots failed the airline's in-house alcohol tests. In an effort to tighten restrictions, Japan Airlines later extended their alcohol bans for pilots to 24 hours before flights.

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    Tags:
    Pilots, Alcohol, Japan Airlines, United Kingdom, Japan
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