Japan Today: ANA copilot fails alcohol test, causing delay to flight from Naha

Via Japan Today:

TOKYO — The breath alcohol level of an All Nippon Airways copilot exceeded the company’s upper limit Wednesday, causing a 90-minute delay to a flight from Naha airport in Okinawa Prefecture for Tokyo’s Haneda airport, company officials said Thursday.

The airline detected about 0.327 milligrams of alcohol in 1 liter of his breath, which surpasses the company’s in-house allowable limit of 0.1 mg, in the test conducted at 7:16 a.m. Wednesday, about 50 minutes before a Boeing 747 for ANA’s Flight 120 was scheduled to leave Naha.


The level fell below the limit in the retest held after 9 a.m.

Since there was nobody at the airport who could replace him, the airline had to put off the departure and allowed the copilot on board only after confirming that his alcohol level had lowered, they said.

So, to make sure I understand this correctly, a 747 pilot that was about to have the lives of 400 people in his hands showed up intoxicated, and instead of having him arrested or put on “leave,” ANA decides to wait about 90 minutes until he sobered up a bit?

Best of all is ANA’s apology:

‘‘We apologize to the passengers for the trouble,’’ an ANA official said. ‘‘We will take care so that such a thing will not happen again.’’

I think it goes without saying that we don’t have the full story here, but it mentions nothing about an investigation, the pilot being suspended, etc. If that’s true, I fail to see how ANA is making sure such a thing doesn’t happen again. If anything, they’re encouraging such behavior.

I’d like to know which pinhead decided on the course of action here.

‘‘There was no safety problem but we verbally cautioned ANA because the incident caused a delay,’’

OK, is this source the Japanese version of The Onion? When a pilot shows up intoxicated to work the transport ministry is more concerned about the delay than the safety issue?

Filed Under: ANA, Media
  1. lol! I love the Onion reference — it’s so true.

    So, .327 is completely sloshed. That’s approaching alcohol poisoning. Most people couldn’t stand up straight at that level. And, I garauntee that you cannot drop from .327 to <.10 in 90 minutes. It’s just not happening. This is asinine.

  2. Actually the measurement of 0.327 milligrams per 1 liter of breathe is completely different than having a BAC of 0.327. From the best I can research, the pilot’s BAC was about 0.03 percent which is the legal limit for driving in Japan and no where near sloshed. After 90 minutes his level was at 0.01 percent it sounds like which is perfectly legal for driving on and I think 0.01 BAC is the legal limit for most pilots. Something like being at 0.03 BAC could be caused drinking one beer before the flight. Not acceptable by any means, but there is a big difference between .327 BAC and .03 which was closer to the actual level. I wouldn’t be thrilled for a pilot to fly a plane like that, but I’m sure after having a beer or two with dinner people routinely drive cars problem free.

  3. Bchaff1 is totally right about the breath/blood distinction, although my research makes it a bit worse for the pilot (but nowhere the el-slosho level of 0.327%).

    Seems like the standard legal conversion is 2100:1 (i.e. amount of EtOH in 2100 mL of breath = amount in 1 mL of blood). So .327 mg in 1000 mL => 68.67 mg/mL = 0.069 g/mL = 0.069% in US-type units.

    Still below the legal driving limit of 0.08% in many places, but hardly what one would like out of a pilot (!), and hard to get to with just a single beer.

    The level of 0.1 mg then corresponds to 0.021%, which seems believable for a company minimum.

    It is also not inconcievable that one could go from 0.06% to 0.02% in 90 minutes, although it seems a bit fast too me (according to Wikipedia the average rate is 0.015%/hour or about 0.022%/90 min). But those rates can vary pretty wildly I guess.

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