Japanese pilot Katsutoshi Jitsukawa admits being drunk shortly before Heathrow flight

Japanese pilot Katsutoshi Jitsukawa admits being drunk shortly before Heathrow flight

London police said Katsutoshi Jitsukawa appeared at Uxbridge Magistrates' Court in west London on Thursday and admitted exceeding the alcohol limit.

Just 50 minutes before a flight from London to Japan was scheduled to depart, the pilot was arrested for having nearly 10 times the legal amount of alcohol allowed in his system.

He was caught after the driver of a crew bus smelled alcohol and called the police, according to Japanese broadcaster NHK.

The 42-year-old co-pilot returned a reading of 0.189, or 189mg of alcohol per 100ml - more than twice the 0.08 drink-drive limit in England.

The plane departed London after a delay of one hour and 9 minutes.

Jitsukawa said he had drunk about two bottles of wine and a pitcher of beer the previous night, NHK said. He was remanded in custody and is due to be sentenced November 29.

JAL said the flight was delayed more than an hour and had to be operated by the remaining two pilots.

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It apologised on Thursday for the incident.

The incident came to light after All Nippon Airways Co. on Wednesday apologized for five flight delays in Okinawa last week because a pilot was not in a fit state to work following a night of drinking.

Japan Airlines issued an apology, saying that safety was their utmost priority, and pledged to "implement immediate actions to prevent any future occurrence".

The airline will now also involve airport staff in alcohol checks rather than allowing pilots to test each other, Kyodo news agency reported.

The last-minute sickie forced the airline to delay five flights linking Okinawa island and smaller regional islands, affecting 619 passengers.

Japan Airlines officials said they believed the pilot had tampered with the test to hide his drinking.

"Although we conduct regular or unannounced safety inspections for airlines, detailed drinking regulations are left to the discretion of each company", said an official at the transport ministry's aviation safety and security department.

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