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Politics

Japan to tighten rules after JAL pilot's arrest over drinking

TOKYO/LONDON (Kyodo) -- Japan will tighten rules for drinking by airplane staff following the arrest in London of a Japan Airlines Co. co-pilot for failing a breath test shortly before a flight and recent alcohol problems in the aviation industry, the transport minister said Friday.

"We will use all possible means to ensure flight safety," the minister, Keiichi Ishii, told reporters, adding the government will study the standards of other countries in implementing stricter rules for the industry.

The minister's remarks came after the co-pilot pleaded guilty to being over the legal alcohol limit at a British court.

The airline said Thursday the 42-year-old co-pilot had been arrested by British police for exceeding the limit for alcohol consumption, forcing it to operate the flight from Heathrow Airport to Haneda airport in Tokyo with two pilots rather than the normal three over the weekend.

JAL said the co-pilot was found to be more than 10 times over the legal limit set under British aviation law after he drank two bottles of wine and more than 1.8 liters of beer over six hours from 6 p.m., the night before the flight on Sunday.

The co-pilot will be sentenced on Nov. 29, according to a British court official.

His arrest came after the driver of a Heathrow Airport crew bus noticed the smell of alcohol on the co-pilot's breath and alerted police, JAL said.

The airline's own breath-testing equipment had not detected a problem earlier and the co-pilot is suspected of having improperly cleared the alcohol check, according to JAL.

Due to the arrest, the flight's departure for Haneda airport scheduled for 7 p.m. Sunday local time was delayed by 1 hour and 9 minutes.

The incident came to light after All Nippon Airways Co. on Wednesday apologized for five flight delays in Okinawa last week because a pilot became unwell after a night of drinking.

A number of alcohol problems in the Japanese air industry have become known in recent months. In May, a JAL flight attendant was caught sneaking a beer into a plane restroom and drinking it mid-flight.

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