Japan Air pilot admits being 10 times over alcohol limit on London flight

A Japan Airlines co-pilot who was arrested after failing a breath test shortly before a London to Tokyo flight pleaded guilty Thursday to being almost 10 times over the legal limit for alcohol.

London’s Metropolitan Police force said Katsutoshi Jitsukawa appeared at Uxbridge Magistrates’ Court in west London and admitted exceeding the alcohol limit.

The airline said the co-pilot was arrested Sunday at Heathrow Airport for violating British aviation law. The driver of a crew bus at Heathrow smelled alcohol on Jitsukawa and reported it to police, Japan’s NHK public television said.

Tests found the 42-year-old first officer had 189 milligrams of alcohol per 100 millilitres of blood in his system, almost 10 times the 20 milligrams limit for a pilot. The limit for drivers in Britain is 80 milligrams.

Jitsukawa acknowledged he had drunk about two bottles of wine and a pitcher of beer the previous night, NHK said.

He was ordered detained until he is sentenced on Nov. 29.

JAL said the flight was delayed more than an hour and had to be operated by the remaining two pilots. It apologised Thursday for the incident.

The airline pledged to “implement immediate actions to prevent any future occurrence”, adding that “safety remains our utmost priority”.

The apology came a day after another major Japanese airline, All Nippon Airways, apologised for causing delays to five domestic flights after a pilot became unwell due to heavy drinking the night before.

“We are certain (the in-house breath test) wasn’t conducted properly,” said Muneaki Kitahara, JAL’s head of communications.

The Daily Mail reported that although the plane bound for Tokyo’s Haneda airport was delayed by only one hour and nine minutes, the airline had to make the difficult decision of flying with only two pilots, rather than the customary three.

This incident comes just ten months after BA pilot Julian Monaghan failed a breath test before boarding a flight from Gatwick to Mauritius in January this year.

The British Airways pilot was jailed for eight months after reporting for duty while four times over the limit.

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