Airlines must tighten alcohol rules for pilots – The Japan Times

The arrest of a Japan Airlines co-pilot in Britain for being intoxicated just before a flight has shed light on the problem of pre-flight consumption of alcohol by airline crews. The fact that the 42-year-old co-pilot was about to board the Oct. 28 flight from London to Tokyo after cheating on an alcohol test at the airport — before being caught by the British police and sentenced to 10 months in prison by a U.K. court — is proof of lax control over airline crews’ consumption of alcohol. Under Japanese law, it has effectively been left up to each airline company to enforce controls. Efforts by the transport ministry and the airline industry to tighten regulations are long overdue. But new regulations must be accompanied by a greater awareness on the part of airline pilots that flying while intoxicated can put huge numbers of lives at risk.

Japan’s aviation law prohibits aircraft crew members from flying when it is feared that they would be unable to properly operate the aircraft due to the effects of alcohol or drugs, and offenders can be punished by up to a year in prison or a fine of up to ¥300,000. However, the law does not set specific levels of alcohol in pre-flight breath tests that would be subject to punishment, and such inspections are not even legally mandated. A government directive bans aviation crews from drinking within eight hours of flight duty, and requires pilots to mutually check each other’s health condition prior to boarding. But the standards and methods of pre-flight alcohol tests for pilots have been left to the discretion of the individual airlines.

What has emerged in the wake of the arrest of the JAL co-pilot — who is found to have consumed two bottles of wine and five cans

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