LONDON — A Japan Airlines co-pilot was sentenced to 10 months in prison at a London court on Thursday for exceeding Britain’s legal alcohol limit as he was preparing to take off from the city’s Heathrow Airport.
The judge at the Isleworth Crown Court said that the defendant endangered the lives of all the passengers and crew on board the Boeing 777 when he got drunk and was almost nine times over the alcohol limit.
A bus driver ferrying Katsutoshi Jitsukawa, the 42-year-old co-pilot, and other crew members to JAL Flight 44 flying from London to Tokyo’s Haneda Airport on Oct. 28 noticed the smell of alcohol on the co-pilot and notified airport officials.
Police arrived at the scene and conducted a breath test. Authorities detained the co-pilot and the plane left London about an hour later than its scheduled departure.
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According to JAL, the defendant drank about two bottles of wine and about five beers the night before the scheduled departure.
The co-pilot pleaded guilty in related proceedings at another court on Nov. 1.
Japan Airlines commented on the sentence on Friday, saying: “We have recognized once again the gravity of the situation and will take all the necessary measures to prevent it from happening again.”
In response to a series of alcohol-related problems at Japanese carriers, the Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism Ministry on Thursday told 25 domestic airlines to implement necessary measures to prevent similar recurrences, such as through stricter management and pilot training.
Transport minister Keiichi Ishii said at a news conference after a Cabinet meeting on Friday, “Based on the sentence and other facts, the ministry will examine necessary measures, including administrative punishment against those concerned in the case.”