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ANA flight canceled after pilot exceeds safe alcohol limit

59 Comments

An ANA flight from Fukuoka to Haneda had to be canceled on Wednesday after the pilot's blood alcohol level was found to exceed the legal limit, the airline said Thursday.

According to NHK, Flight 246, due to take off at 8:30 a.m., was canceled after the 55-year-old pilot was breathalyzed an hour and a half before takeoff. His breath registered 0.314 mg/L of alcohol. The legal limit for driving on the roads in Japan is 0.15 mg/L.

As a result, 240 passengers' flights were delayed by 40 minutes after they were forced to take a later flight, NHK reported.

ANA said the captain and his copilot were drinking together on the morning of the flight until 4:30 a.m. and consumed six glasses of the Japanese spirit "shochu." The spokesperson also said that ANA is continuing to investigate the possibility that the captain and his copilot exceeded the maximum alcoholic beverage limit stipulated by ANA rules.

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59 Comments
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Isn't this the airline that turned it's passengers over a month or so ago? I heard on Jay Leno that they did that to get more money out of them.

Well, I'm glad they didn't let this guy fly but I'm a little surprised he tried to take that jet up for a spin anyway.

-1 ( +2 / -3 )

Shochu is Korean, not Japanese

-15 ( +2 / -16 )

Shochu is Korean, not Japanese

I always thought Shochu to be Japanese, the ones I have tried are at least produced here.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

No, Shochu is Japanese - Originally frtom Kyushu. 'Soju' is a similiar beverage made in Korea.

8 ( +10 / -2 )

Theresident is correct. I have been drinking it for 29 years.

I am glad they are testing the pilots.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Smashed, drinking until 4.30am then going to work at 8.30am. Glad someone stopped them, pilot and co-pilot. Not sure if six glasses is enough to get a reading that high, but might have been big vases.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

One of them should have been the designated flyer. I guess pilots don't get tested before each flight, or else they would have known they would get caught. Anyone out there know the rules? Can a passenger request a pilot sobriety test before take off?

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I think that's a firing offense in my opinion. Twice the legal limit before flying hundreds of passengers? Yup...they have no common sense and need to go!

6 ( +7 / -1 )

Some cursory research has yielded the following: No one knows for sure when shochu started being produced in Japan, but it was previously called "Araki" - a katakana loan word for "arak" - a similar spirit brewed in the Muslim world.

The first ever written example of "Shochu" occurred in the 1500's. Korean Soju, on the other hand, predates that by a large margin. Given the fact that the two names are extremely similar, and that it used to be called something else in Japan, I think it's safe to say that shochu as it is known today was introduced from Korea.

Thank you, I'll be here all week.

-6 ( +1 / -7 )

How was he busted? Did someone dob him in? I think all drivers of public transport should be tested every day. All train drivers are tested before every shift in Oz. It would bring this country to a standstill if the same was done here.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

Regardless of where it all came from, in common usage today, Soju is Korean and Shochu is Japanese. Yes they are similar but in my considerable experience of both, Soju is more deadly, or maybe it's the Korean style of drinking the stuff. Most arak type drinks are found around the Eastern Mediterranean, Turkey and Greece particularly. The Muslim world in general does not brew its own liquor for obvious reasons.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

The legal limit for driving has no relation to this article. What is the legal limit for alcohol in their bloodstream for commercial pilots?

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

Actually, if you guys want to get technical about where shochu comes from it's origins are unclear, but it dates back to at least 1500 in Kyushu and it's supposed predecessor Awamori in Okinawa. Some say it was imported via Thailand, and even other records suggest it existed as far back as 3000 years ago in Mesopotamia. Regardless, Soju and Shochu are more or less the same thing -- distilled spirits from rice. I was always under the impression that it originated from China and was considered a low-class drink here, hence the 'Nihon-shu' name and higher quality sake being created, but a Kyushu Shochu factory worker (while I was on a tour) said it can't be said for sure where it originated.

Anyway, pilots have pretty strict rules for drinking, and rightly so. Hell, even flight attendants aren't supposed to drink for a certain number of hours before a flight because their breath might smell as a result. These guys were idiots to be drinking so much and so soon before a flight, and I'm glad it was cancelled... I can just imagine the headlines had they been allowed to fly and something happened.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

WTF! Drinking til 4 30 for an 8 30 flight? And Cricky, 8 30 was the departure time so he would have had to be there god knows what time, 7/7 30? Heavy drinking and maybe an hour and a half/2 hours sleep before a commercial flight? Great preparation.. I might trust an Australian pilot to do that but not a Japanese one.

-2 ( +1 / -3 )

I think that's a firing offense in my opinion. Twice the legal limit before flying hundreds of passengers? Yup...they have no common sense and need to go!

Yes, and it's a jail time offense, too! Thank goodness he was caught before he put the passengers' lives in danger.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Testing for alcohol is the norm for pilots, etc before they board the plane, worldwide practice.

He was a fool, plain and simple.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

I am not surprised by the story one bit and what a shame. I fly a fair bit and often wonder when I take an early flight here in Japan if the pilot was out drinking till the wee hours of the morning before coming to work. There should be an absolute ZERO tolerance policy for this and not only should this idiot lose his job he should be jailed and fined. ANA is a garbage airline anyway. I absolutely loathe flying with them.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

I wonder if he drove his car to work as well, then the cops can get him after the fact for DUI as well.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

What a ga dam ijit!! Drunk before a flight?? Stupid! Stupid! Stupid!!!!

-2 ( +1 / -3 )

The breathalyzer is notriously inaccurate. I hope they took a blood sample to test so as to get this right.

Perhaps equal to the drinking is his apparent lack of sleep. But, to be honest, I have no idea how drunk .314 mg/L of alcohol is meant to be.

If seriously drunk and actually wanting to fly, then I suggest serious punishment. But if he was already saying he was too drunk to fly and a test was demanded, then the foul is much less. All he did in that case would be to inconvenience everyone.

-4 ( +0 / -4 )

The legal limit for driving on the roads in Japan is 0.15 mg/L.

It is beyond ludicrous that the legal limit permits anything above 0.00 mg/L. We are not talking about drivers here, but pilots of commercial airliners carrying hundres of passengers.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Can you believe it? it's still cheaper to fly than it is to go by Shink.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

It is beyond ludicrous that the legal limit permits anything above 0.00 mg/L.

No. It is beyond ludicrous that you don't realize that everyone has some alcohol in the blood naturally.

-4 ( +0 / -4 )

oikawa>rules in Australia are very strict,concerning those people who have a job transporting the public, pilots ,boat captain,bus drivers and taxi drivers are banned from drinking 24 hours before coming onto a work shift. Regular breath checks are held by the companies themselves.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Pathetic. But hey they weren't driving.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Piracy

The breathalyzer is notriously inaccurate. I hope they took a blood sample to test so as to get this right.

He was drinking shochu - fairly strong stuff - until 4 hours before his flight. How much accuracy do you really think is needed?

But if he was already saying he was too drunk to fly and a test was demanded, then the foul is much less

Nonsense. The foul is just about the same. They should be prohibited from drinking by law 24 hours before going on duty. If that is too onerous, they need to check themselves into a rehab clinic ASAP.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

He was drinking shochu - fairly strong stuff - until 4 hours before his flight. How much accuracy do you really think is needed?

When a man's job is on the line, I would say the best commonly available. When important details are missing, such as exactly how much he was drinking over how long a period, again, I am going to ask for the best commonly available. Are you trying to say a blood test is too much hassle? And do you realize that you don't even know if he had his last sip at 4:30 am or if he was merely out until that time? Just because it says he was out drinking until 4:30 am does not mean he was actually drinking something at 4:29 am. Thus, I want the better test. I know from experience how bad the breathalyzer is. I also know from experience that newspaper articles contain massive information holes.

Nonsense. The foul is just about the same.

So you cannot see the difference between wanting to fly drunk and refusing to fly drunk? Man, I sure am glad you are not in charge!

-2 ( +1 / -3 )

He needs to be fired. No questions asked. Toyota and other car companies fire employees for being caught drunk driving - passenger or not. ANA should be doing to same.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Piracy

When important details are missing, such as exactly how much he was drinking over how long a period, again, I am going to ask for the best commonly available. Are you trying to say a blood test is too much hassle? And do you realize that you don't even know if he had his last sip at 4:30 am or if he was merely out until that time?

Is reading the article too much to ask?

"The spokesperson also said that ANA is continuing to investigate the possibility that the captain and his copilot exceeded the maximum alcoholic beverage limit stipulated by ANA rules. "

Thus, I want the better test. I know from experience how bad the breathalyzer is.

It doesn't really matter what you want now, does it? Unless you are the pilot in question or his employer, and I am quite sure you are not?

So you cannot see the difference between wanting to fly drunk and refusing to fly drunk?

No, what I can't see is how anyone who needs to be responsible enough to fly a commercial airliner with hundreds of lives at stake can be so irresponsible to get drunk before a shift. Being wise enough to turn himself in is worthy of a "thanks" on the way out the door. People with great responsibilities need to be held to a much, much higher standard than the general public.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

People with great responsibilities need to be held to a much, much higher standard than the general public.

The Japanese say that even a monkey can fall from a tree. If you demand perfection, you will be consistently disappointed by everyone. If you demand perfection or they are out their door, you will be consistently lonely.

Where the lines should be drawn is an argument for another day. Today, its about where the line is drawn and where this guy was in relation to that line.

Is reading the article too much to ask?

I read it. Is it too much to ask what your cut and paste is supposed to be about?

It doesn't really matter what you want now, does it?

If that is the case, then why did you ask me this?:

How much accuracy do you really think is needed?

If you don't want my opinion, please don't ask.

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

Isn't there something missing from this story...? You know like, "Pilot suspended indefinitely until the Flight Safety Board meets and conducts an investigation into matter... " (or who-ever is the licensing body in Japan, FAA in U.S.) Nothing like this...? Like WTF...? He'll be back flying again the day after tomorrow, I bet he didn't even get docked salary for that missed flight...

You miss a radio call in the U.S. and you and your co-pilot, will not only be out of a job, but you'll probably never fly again... And This incident is Drinking, he would have been flying, if someone else didn't stop him... It's ludicrous... You would expect this kind of behavior from one of the "Air India" or "Philippine Air" pilot's, Not Japan... (Sorry, India and Philippines no disrespect intended)

And you wonder why Japan is decades behind other industrialized nations... It's this kind of laissez-faire, "Oh, it's Ok if he [Insert Name of Illegal activity: Groping, Sexual Harassment, Stealing, ect..] it's because he was just drunk..." and then they sweep it under the carpet...

But OH, let's make sure those keystones are out in force cracking down on Illegal bicycle riders...! We all know that's the root of all evil!

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

You would expect this kind of behavior from one of the "Air India" or "Philippine Air" pilot's, Not Japan... (Sorry, India and Philippines no disrespect intended)

That is the equivalent of "I'm not racist but..." and then telling a racist joke.

-1 ( +2 / -4 )

Not sure if six glasses is enough to get a reading that high....

Of shochu? - yes, most likely more than enough. A couple of bad experiences with that led me to swear off it. It is deceptively mind-bending.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

minello is correct. No drinking allowed within 24 hours of the flight. Those are the rules, and he broke them knowingly. Fire him. By the way, shochu is from China (in Chinese it means fiery liquor).

4 ( +4 / -0 )

There is the ANA's internal regulation of no alcohol at least 12 hours before the flight.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

He was awake at 4.30 a.m. and had a flight taking off at 8.30 a.m. Regardless of whether he was drunk or not, he hadn't had enough sleep.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

How often do pilots get tested? Was this one random and just so happened to get caught? Follow how ANA handles this and whether it will set an example for all their pilots.

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

i wonder why some korean people try to insist things come from korea.

-3 ( +1 / -4 )

Piracy

The Japanese say that even a monkey can fall from a tree. If you demand perfection, you will be consistently disappointed by everyone. If you demand perfection or they are out their door, you will be consistently lonely.

Nobody demands perfection. I don't think "not drinking before you fly a commercial jet" is perfection. It's "don't beat your wife" level of no-brainer. Someone with that poor of judgment shouldn't be at the controls of a jet.

Is it too much to ask what your cut and paste is supposed to be about?

You posed questions as if they had not or would not be answered, simple bit of reading showed the investigation is ongoing.

If you don't want my opinion, please don't ask.

You DO have reading issues. You said "Thus, I want the better test". I merely pointed out that you don't have a vote as you are not the pilot, the airline, or the police. Your or my opinion on that topic has nothing to do with anything. The other question was rhetorical.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Fire.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

ANA is doing one gaffe after another...

0 ( +2 / -2 )

Japanese males are known for their drinking habits. Maybe part of their culture. Funny though but during my stint at Koriyama City, Fukushima Ken, I met a Japanese Heart Surgeon bragging about a patient he gonna operate that early morning. And it was 3 AM and he's still drinking his Brandy with his lady companion. And he looks drunk...Hehehehe The point is, this kind of attitude should not be tolerated since lives are in their hands and depended on their decision in cases of emergencies.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

wasnt there a Japanese tourist bus driver that killed a bunch of tourists and was jailed because he had sleep deprevation - 8 hours of sleep. These guys had 4 hours and could not even legally drive a bus. Should lose their license.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Hell, even flight attendants aren't supposed to drink for a certain number of hours before a flight because their breath might smell as a result.

-not because they might have to deal with an emergency situation? Maybe one caused by a pi**ed up pilot?

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Good job ANA....glad you test your pilots. I rather be delayed than be a potential bad situation up in the air.

I wonder if the pilots here in Japan get arrested like the ones in the US? Intoxicated pilots in the US always win the Grand Prize of getting their mug shot and bad exposure on the National News.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Just hope the United pilots who fly me to Hawaii tomorrow haven't had a skinful. As for myself, I plan on being mildly intoxicated on the trip - glad they won't be testing me!

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

Heavy drinking and maybe an hour and a half/2 hours sleep before a commercial flight? Great preparation.. I might trust an Australian pilot to do that but not a Japanese one.

@ Oikawa - ever met a Japanese dude? These blokes could drink most Aussie mates of mine under the table. Drink like fish this mob - pilots, train drivers, doctors...the lot. Just wander around a small Japanese town/city at night and have a look at the array of drinking options.

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

The U.S. gets around the BAC question by making it a rule that pilots cannot consume ANY alcohol within the 8 hours prior to a flight. Doing so risks losing your license (and, therefore, your ability to work in your chosen career) even if you only had a single beer with your lunch and your flight is at 5:00 pm. That's pretty much a "0 BAC rule" without having to actually measure the pilot's BAC.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

"Bottle to throttle" is the unofficial name for the time period before a flight when you should abstain from alcohol. The Military enforce it, along with the better airlines at usually 12 hours. FAR 91.17 is 8 hours.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Hey half international flights I take with US Airways I see the pilot sleeping in the seat near me in Business Class and I wonder who is flying the plane. But it's all computerized I guess.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Hey half international flights I take with US Airways I see the pilot sleeping in the seat near me in Business Class and I wonder who is flying the plane. But it's all computerized I guess.

That's a pilot "deadheading" back to his home hub. He isn't responsible for any operation of that particular aircraft, which is why he can afford to sleep. The actual flight crew stays on the flight deck (and sleeps). ;-)

1 ( +1 / -0 )

@wanderlust "Bottle to throttle" is the unofficial name for the time period before a flight when you should abstain from alcohol. The Military enforce it, along with the better airlines at usually 12 hours. FAR 91.17 is 8 hours.

Yes, Ideally... but when we flew out of Cubi, our commander would always say, "We'll Brief in Kadena."

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Isn't drinking before work somewhat unprofessional? I mean, come on man.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

@Utrack and Fadamor - The sleeping pilot was on break. Most duty regulations in the world limit flying time for 2-pilot aircraft to 8 hours. Flights over 8 hours on 2-pilot aircraft require at least 1 relief pilot. The longer the flight, the more pilots are required.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

@Tigerta9 -Japanese airlines have their pilots blow into a breathalyzer when they check in for duty.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

@BurakuminDes Seriouslly? I know there are numerous drinking options but the Japanese can't hold their drink for toffee. It's even physiologically proven. That's why you see massive puke stains and people splayed out asleep all over the country, after they've been forced to drink too much by their friends or their boss. I'd have my money on an Aussie anyday. Not that I'd want them to fly me somewhere though... :)

1 ( +1 / -0 )

For mission critical professions like that of a pilot, alcohol consumption by such professionals must be banned altogether with penalty of losing their license to fly. Unless such strict laws are in place, pilots will never fear and continue to manipulate the system. Please recruit pilots that do not drink or smoke.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

@deepstar: Ban consumption altogether? I think you are taking it a bit far there. I do not know what the regulations are, and I would guess they differ betwen airline. But surely no drinking in a 24 hour period prior to flying is sufficient, and if caught, yes withdraw the right to fly. What the hell has smoking got to do with it? I can understand that YOU may not like smoking but it should not be a reason NOT to be employed.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

Who needs reclining seats when "you can fly high?"

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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