A Japan Airlines co-pilot has been sentenced by a British court to 10-months imprisonment after being caught by police attempting to operate a flight while over the alcohol limit. The incident occurred on 28th October at Heathrow Airport after 42-year old First Officer, Katsutoshi Jitsukawa drank two bottles of wine and over a litre and a half of beer the night before he was due to work.
Jitsukawa is said to have cheated a pre-flight alcohol test at the company’s offices at Heathrow before he briefly boarded the Tokyo bound plane. Suspicious staff, however, called in the police who promptly arrested the pilot after carrying out their own field alcohol test.
“This is an incredibly serious offence as Jitsukawa, a member of the airline crew, had responsibility for performing a critical role,” explained Inspector Iain Goble of the Metropolitan Police’s Aviation Security Command.
“This conviction reflects he displayed not only total disregard for the safety of all the passengers and staff on his flight, but also the wider public. Clearly, the consequences could potentially have been catastrophic had security staff and police not intervened,” he continued.
Jitsukawa today pleaded guilty at Uxbridge Magistrates Court to performing an aviation function with alcohol in his blood that exceeded the prescribed legal limit. A blood test taken by a police doctor revealed that Jitsukawa had at least 189 milligrams of alcohol per 100 millilitres of blood – the maximum permitted for pilots is just 20 milligrams of alcohol per 100 millilitres of blood meaning Jitsukawa was over nine times the legal limit.
The case has sent shockwaves through the Japenese aviation industry and the headquarters of Japan Airlines was even raided by authorities a couple of days ago over the incident. Officials said they were inspecting the offices to ensure that action was being taken to stop such an incident ever happening again.
In the wake of Jitsukawa’s arrest, the company has already extended its drinking ban from 12-hours before a flight to an entire 24-hours prior to flying.
Japan has been hit by a spate of similar scandals in the last few months and the government is now looking to tighten its existing rules. At present, Japenese law prevents pilots from drinking alcohol within 8-hours of a flight but unlike the United Kingdom and many other countries, Japan does not have a maximum blood alcohol limit.