Photo/IllutrationA pilot checks his blood alcohol level with a breathalyzer device. (Asahi Shimbun file photo)

Eight of 25 domestic airlines in Japan don't require pilots to take a breathalyzer test before flying, according to an Asahi Shimbun survey taken after a Japan Airlines Co. pilot in London failed a test and was arrested before his flight.

Among the 17 other airlines, 12 have mainly relied on “simple type” breathalyzer devices that are less sensitive, enabling pilots to easily pass the test.

The JAL co-pilot was arrested Oct. 28 at Heathrow Airport by London’s Metropolitan Police after he was found to be almost 10 times over the legal limit for alcohol shortly before a London to Tokyo flight.

In Japan under the government notice based on the aviation law, pilots are prohibited from being on duty within eight hours after drinking. However, the use of a breathalyzer device is not mandatory, and the testing method and criterion are decided by each airline.

In the survey, the eight airlines that reported not requiring breathalyzer tests of pilots are Jetstar Japan Co.; IBEX Airlines Co.; Nippon Cargo Airlines; Airdo Co.; New Central Airservice Co.; Toho Air Service Co.; Oriental Air Bridge Co.; and Amakusa Airlines Co.

The eight have rules such as requiring pilots to have a face-to-face check before flying. But Jetstar Japan and IBEX Airlines don’t even possess breathalyzer devices.

The remaining six airlines require that only when pilots are judged to have a possibility of alcohol impairment during a face-to-face check, will a breathalyzer device then be used. But they have no record of using such a device.

The alcohol-level criteria also vary among the airlines. Twenty airlines reported that they have a set limit. Of these, three airlines have a limit of 0.15 milligram of alcohol per liter of breath, the same as the Road Traffic Law, while nine airlines have a limit of 0.10 milligram. Seven other airlines have stricter criteria.

The remaining airline responded that it doesn’t publicize its criterion.

(This article was written by Hideki Kitami and Shun Niekawa.)