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JAL reveals some 3,800 alcohol test data items missing amid pilot drinking scandals

TOKYO -- Amid the recent series of drinking scandals involving pilots, about 3,800 cases of Japan Airlines Co. (JAL)'s alcohol test records were found missing among roughly 220,000 inspection results, officials of the airline have revealed to the Mainichi Shimbun.

The data was recorded using a new type of alcohol detecting device that JAL introduced in August 2017. The company claims it "has not confirmed any cases of deliberate cheating to pass inspections." Meanwhile, the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism (MLIT) is conducting a further investigation of JAL's poor alcohol test conditions and mulling over imposing an administrative penalty on the company.

According to JAL, its pilots test their alcohol levels do not exceed the company's standard limit of 0.1 milligrams per liter of exhaled breath by blowing into breathalyzers. However, a 42-year-old former co-pilot was arrested in London after he was found to have high alcohol levels in his body before a London-Tokyo flight in October.

In response, the MLIT conducted an on-site inspection of JAL's offices, including one at Haneda Airport, for three days from Nov. 27. Although data from the new devices were meant to be recorded online, some items were found missing by MLIT officials during their inspection.

JAL's interviews with pilots revealed that the major causes for such failures were typographical errors when entering employee numbers and system failures that prevented the start of alcohol tests.

Some of the approximately 3,800 cases of missing data included test results that could not be recorded online. When the new devices were introduced, JAL officials failed to complete installations of its online system on time at Kansai International Airport, Osaka International Airport and other airports.

There were also cases in which alcohol tests were not conducted because the pilots were too busy with preflight meetings. A JAL official explained, "We have not confirmed the specific numbers of cases, but there's only a few."

In response to the drinking scandals, the MLIT held a conference on Dec. 5 with the heads and top officials of 25 domestic airline companies operating regular flights. Participants shared information on preventative measures against pilot drinking at the meeting. It is very rare for the MLIT to warn top executives of airline companies over safety issues.

(Japanese original by Norihito Hanamure, City News Department)

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