TOKYO/LONDON – Japan will tighten rules for drinking by airplane staff, following the arrest in London of a Japan Airlines Co. co-pilot for failing a breath test shortly before a flight and recent alcohol problems in the aviation industry, Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism Minister Keiichi Ishii said Friday. "We will use all possible means to ensure flight safety," Ishii told reporters, adding that the government will study standards enforced by other countries in implementing stricter rules for the industry. Under the current Japanese system, crew members are prohibited from drinking within eight hours of starting work but there is no law or regulation that sets a legal limit for alcohol consumption. Breath tests are not even required. Airlines have their own rules and voluntarily conduct them, in contrast to the United States and Europe where legal frameworks have been established, according to the transport ministry.
Japan Airlines Co. and All Nippon Airways Co. pledged Friday to administer more stringent alcohol tests for pilots and use new testing equipment in response to recent drinking incidents involving flight crew. Recent problems involving drunken pilots from Japan's two major airlines have stirred concern and prompted the government to tighten alcohol consumption rules for flight crew. In a report submitted to the government, JAL said it will introduce new breathalyzers at overseas airports this month and penalize pilots who fail sobriety tests. JAL co-pilot Katsutoshi Jitsukawa was arrested by British police after a heavy drinking session the night before a London-Tokyo flight on Oct. 28 left him around 10 times over the legal limit under British aviation law. The incident came days after an ANA pilot was unable to fly when he became sick from drinking in Okinawa, causing delays to five flights on Oct. 25.
LONDON – A U.K. court sentenced a Japan Airlines co-pilot to 10 months in prison Thursday over heavy drinking before flight duty in October. Katsutoshi Jitsukawa, 42, has admitted to the charge of drinking at a level that greatly exceeded the country's legal limit for on-duty aviation personnel. In handing down the ruling, Judge Phillip Matthews said, "The safety of all persons onboard that very long flight … was put at risk by your inebriation." "The prospect of you taking control of that aircraft is too appalling to contemplate. The potential consequence for those onboard if you did so was catastrophic," he added.
The transport ministry on Tuesday conducted an on-site inspection of Japan Airlines Co. after one of its pilots was arrested in Britain for heavy drinking before a flight from London to Tokyo late last month. Through the inspection at the company's Tokyo headquarters and other offices through Thursday, the ministry is expected to confirm measures JAL outlined in a report submitted earlier to prevent a similar incident, as well as details of the misconduct. "We will sort out and analyze information to be obtained in the inspection to strictly instruct and supervise the company. Then we will consider necessary steps including administrative punishment," transport minister Keiichi Ishii said at a press conference. JAL co-pilot Katsutoshi Jitsukawa was arrested by British police for being around 10 times over the country's legal limit after drinking the night before the flight on Oct. 28.
Japan Airlines Co. submitted to the government Friday new rules concerning alcohol consumption by flight staff and measures to monitor enforcement, following a series of drinking-related problems at the company, the transport ministry said. While the content of JAL's report was to be disclosed later in the day, Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism Minister Keiichi Ishii said his ministry will conduct inspections on JAL and other domestic airlines in the near future, to check if members of their flight crews are following the regulations set by each airline. "We are making maximum efforts to restore public confidence in aviation safety," Ishii told a news conference after a Cabinet meeting. Following drinking incidents involving JAL and other airlines last year, the ministry decided to introduce new rules on alcohol consumption by pilots and other flight crew members. Alcohol tests were made mandatory for pilots before and after flights, and a ban was implemented on pilots being allowed to board if a Breathalyzer test finds them to have even a tiny amount of alcohol in their system.