Photo/IllutrationThe president of Japan Airlines Co., Yuji Akasaka, submits a report to the transport ministry in Tokyo’s Kasumigaseki district on Nov. 16. (Kotaro Ebara)

  • Photo/Illustraion

A Japan Airlines Co. co-pilot arrested in London last month for being drunk evaded an in-house breathalyzer test, it was revealed in a JAL investigation of the case.

The report, submitted by JAL President Yuji Akasaka to the transport ministry on Nov. 16, also said that the two chief pilots admitted neglecting their duties to visually confirm such checks.

"We bear the responsibility for this incident, which should never have happened," Akasaka said.

The co-pilot was detained Oct. 28 at Heathrow Airport by London’s Metropolitan Police force after failing a breath test shortly before a London-to-Tokyo flight at nearly 10 times over the legal alcohol limit.

As an in-house breath test just before the 42-year-old started his duties failed to detect the alcohol level, the ministry had asked the airline to provide a report explaining the matter in detail.

The hearings revealed that the co-pilot took the breathalyzer test at a distance from the two pilots, who were supposed to observe him breathing into the device.

The company also confirmed that the simple device, which has no tubes to blow into, can easily be cheated and concluded that, "The co-pilot didn't blow the necessary amount of air into the device and deliberately got around the test."

The report also stated the possibility that the man drinks excessively owing to "personal problems."

To prevent such incidents in the future, JAL decided to install advanced breathalyzer devices in Japan and overseas by Nov. 19. The device only activates when users exhale through tubes. Also, workers will face stricter penalties when they are found to have excessive blood-alcohol levels, and medical checks will be conducted more frequently.

Under the government notice based on Japan's aviation law, pilots are prohibited from drinking in the eight-hour period before their duties. However, breathalyzer tests are not mandatory, and each airline decides the testing method and criteria.

"Considering the incident this time, previous measures were not sufficient," transport minister Keiichi Ishii said on Nov. 16 at a news conference after a Cabinet meeting. "We will set more effective measures urgently."

The ministry plans to make breath tests obligatory and to create uniform alcohol-related rules. It will hold an experts meeting to discuss the matter on Nov. 20.

The ministry also asked ANA Wings Co. and Skymark Airlines Co., both subsidiaries of All Nippon Airways Co. (ANA), to submit reports, after recent flights by both airlines were delayed owing to pilots having excessive blood-alcohol levels. ANA submitted its report on Nov. 16.

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