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JAL pilot had junior pilot take alcohol test for him before 2017 flight to Chicago

TOKYO -- A pilot in his 50s who flew a commercial flight from Narita International Airport outside Tokyo to Chicago's O'Hare International Airport in December 2017 cheated the preflight alcohol test, Japan Airlines Co. revealed Jan. 9.

The airline had just adopted new alcohol detection equipment and beefed up its drinking countermeasures that August.

According to the airline, two pilots -- including the one in question, who is now aged 59 -- and a co-pilot were assigned to the flight. When the 59-year-old pilot used a spare breathalyzer at Narita Airport, his result came out to 0.09 milligrams, close to the company limit of 0.1 milligrams of alcohol per 1 liter of breath. He asked the other pilot, who was his junior, to take the official alcohol test in his stead. Five days later, the junior pilot, now aged 53, reported the incident to a superior. The company explained that the senior pilot claimed he had consumed three, 350-milliliter cans of a shochu liquor-based drink until around 8:30 p.m. on the day prior to the flight.

Japan Airlines hastily made the announcement after learning that a weekly magazine that went on sale Jan. 10 was carrying an article about the incident. The company had previously not reported the case to the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism.

A Japan Airlines official said that it did not report the incident to the ministry because the company had been unable to determine whether the pilot's alcohol levels exceeded company standards. They also said that the case was one of malicious avoidance of protocol and that the pilot was given an in-house reprimand in February 2018, but did not identify what kind of reprimand he received. The airline said the pilot had not flown since the revelations he had evaded the breathalyzer test.

Japan Airlines also revealed that a male pilot who was scheduled to fly from Sydney, Australia, to Narita in November 2010 was found to have alcohol in his system during a spot test by Australian aviation authorities, and was grounded. He later resigned.

(Japanese original by Norihito Hanamure, City News Department)

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