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Japanese transport ministry to mandate alcohol tests for pilots after spate of drinking incidents

Kyodo

The transport ministry said Wednesday it has decided to introduce new rules including mandatory alcohol tests for pilots after a number of services were disrupted due to drinking by flight crew members.

The ministry will set legal limits for pilots of 0.09 milligrams of alcohol per liter of breath or 0.2 grams of alcohol per liter of blood, while requiring pilots to take tests in the presence of staff from other departments to prevent cheating.

Under the current system, flight crew members are prohibited from drinking within eight hours of starting work, but there is no legal limit for alcohol consumption and breath tests are not required.

Japanese airlines conduct alcohol tests according to their own rules, in contrast with the United States and Europe where legal frameworks are established, according to the Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism Ministry.

A Japan Airlines Co. co-pilot was arrested in Britain before a flight at the end of October when he was found to be around 10 times over the country’s legal limit. The co-pilot, 42-year-old Katsutoshi Jitsukawa, who was later dismissed, was sentenced to 10 months in prison by a British court.

In another case, a pilot of an All Nippon Airways Co. unit disrupted five flights in Okinawa in October when he called in sick after drinking heavily the night before.

JAL and ANA have since introduced more stringent alcohol tests for pilots, as well as new testing equipment.

In Japan, the legal limit for drivers is set at 0.15 milligrams of alcohol per liter of breath.