This is pretty nuts. It’s being reported that on Sunday, October 28, 2018, a Japan Airlines first officer was caught trying to board a plane nearly 10x over the legal alcohol limit for pilots. He was supposed to operate JL44 from London Heathrow to Tokyo Haneda, which ended up being delayed by a bit over an hour.
The 42 year old 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 appeared in court yesterday, claiming that this was due to serious drinking the previous night at his hotel bar and room. I’d like to point out this flight was scheduled to depart at 7PM, so to suggest he had that much alcohol in his system from drinking the following evening is highly, highly unlikely (or even more alarming, since he was likely near death if he still had that much in his system so many hours later).
The pilot only got discovered by the hotel bus driver, who smelled alcohol on his breath. We hear of drunk pilots trying to board flights fairly often (obviously a tiny percentage of the overall pilots out there, but still…).
Obviously it’s incredibly disturbing that anyone would be so irresponsible with other peoples’ lives in their hands. But possibly what I find even more disturbing is that it’s almost never the other pilots who are reporting those who are drunk.
Are you really going to tell me that the other pilots didn’t notice how drunk he was? It’s so irresponsible that they wouldn’t report their colleague. It also makes me wonder how many flights end up actually being operated by drunk pilots, given that apparently many pilots can’t be relied on to report their colleagues.
Japan Airlines has issued a statement pledging to “implement immediate actions to prevent any future occurrence,” and added that “safety remains [their] utmost priority.”