A few weeks ago I shared the story of a Japan Airlines 777 pilot who was caught at London Heathrow Airport nearly 10x over the legal alcohol limit for pilots.
The 42 year old first officer was supposed to operate a flight to Tokyo Haneda on October 28, when he was given a breathalyzer just shortly before departure, and was found to have 189mg of alcohol per 100ml of blood in his system
The legal limit for pilots is 20mg, which is much lower than what it is for drivers. As a point of comparison, in England the limit for drivers is 80mg per 100ml of blood, and it’s similar in most of the US.
So he was significantly more than twice over the legal drinking limit for drivers, which is pretty insane. The pilot was immediately arrested and given a court date, and we now know the results of that, per The Guardian.
We now also know a bit more about what happened. Security at the airport had noticed that the pilot had glazed eyes and struggled to stand up straight. Security staff then boarded the aircraft, where the pilot was found rinsing with mouthwash, before eventually taking a breathalyzer.
The pilot has been sentenced to 10 months in jail in the UK for his actions.
Of course it’s good that the guy got caught, rather than operating a flight where he was potentially putting hundreds of peoples’ lives in jeopardy. At the same time, someone who would do something like this clearly has deeper issues, and that’s sad as well.
The 42 year old had apparently dreamed of being a pilot since a very young age, but the realities of longhaul travel had destroyed that for him. As his lawyer explained:
“He said he became unhappy, suffered with sleeplessness, started feeling depressed. It would seem he used alcohol as a means of self-medication.”
He was the sole provider for his three young children, and feels an “abject disgrace” to the airline, passengers, and his family, “for the shame he had brought upon them.”
The pilot has since been fired by the airline.
Like I said above, this is tragic on many levels. It’s sad that the pilot would endanger other peoples’ lives in this way, though it’s also tragic that he was in a place in his life where he felt this was appropriate and necessary.
It continues to be alarming to me how often pilots are caught intoxicated, and especially how it’s almost always by security staff. It sure makes you wonder how often pilots are turning a blind eye to drunk colleagues.
(Featured image courtesy of Masakatsu Ukon, tip of the hat to The Nice Paul)