Japanese Pilot Arrested In UK Over Alcohol

Jeannie Matthews
December 2, 2018

First officer Katsutoshi Jitsukawa, 42, was arrested at the airport after failing a breath test 50 minutes before the Japan Airlines flight to Tokyo was due to depart.

Jitsukawa admitted to one count of performing an aviation function when his ability was impaired through alcohol.

Security staff intervened after realising he was not fit to fly, with officers noting his "glazed eyes" and catching a strong smell of alcohol.

Judge Phillip Matthews described the co-pilot as "very intoxicated" ahead of the October 28 flight, as he sentenced him to 10 months' imprisonment at Isleworth Crown Court on Thursday.

The judge noted the defendant could have placed the safety of all persons on board the flight at risk for 12 hours and that the potential consequences could have been "catastrophic".

"The prospect of you taking control of that aircraft is too appalling to contemplate. The potential outcome for those onboard if you did so was catastrophic", he added.

When the security staff challenged him, Jitsukawa defended himself, saying he had whisky the previous day but it had already passed through his system.

"He (the security manager) went back on the plane to find the defendant in the toilet rinsing and gargling his mouth with mouthwash", the prosecutor said at the trial.

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A Japan Airlines pilot who was found to be almost ten times the legal alcohol limit for a commercial pilot was sentenced in London to a ten month prison term.

Many Japan Airlines group units, meanwhile, have followed their parent company in extending their alcohol bans for pilots to 24 hours before flights in the wake of the drinking incidents, company officials said Thursday.

Breath and blood tests by police confirmed that the alcohol levels in his system exceeded the legal limit by about 10 times and nine times, respectively.

Bill Emlyn Jones, who was mitigating, claimed Jitsukawa was using alcohol to self-medicate for depression.

Jitsukawa appeared via videolink from Wandsworth Prison.

The plane, a Boeing 777 holding up to 244 travelers, withdrew for Tokyo following a 69-minute postponement.

The pilot feels "abject disgrace" and wishes to apologise to the airline, passengers and his family "for the shame he had brought upon them", he added.

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