A British court sentenced a Japan Airlines co-pilot to 10 months in prison on Thursday for exceeding the legal alcohol limit by around 10 times prior to a flight in October.
"The safety of all persons onboard that very long flight...was put at risk by your inebriation," Judge Phillip Matthews said in handing down the sentence to Katsutoshi Jitsukawa at London's Isleworth Crown Court.
"The prospect of you taking control of that aircraft is too appalling to contemplate. The potential consequence for those onboard if you did so was catastrophic," the judge added.
Jitsukawa pleaded guilty on Nov. 1 to being over the alcohol limit.
Japan Airlines Co. announced Friday the dismissal of the 42-year-old co-pilot as well as pay cuts for top executives.
The company said in a statement it "sincerely apologizes for any inconvenience and undue stress caused to all involved," pledging "to establish an effective and strict management policy to achieve full compliance at all levels to prevent a recurrence."
The salary of JAL President Yuji Akasaka will be cut by 20 percent for three months from December. He voluntarily returned 20 percent of his salary in November.
"I hope JAL will take the sentence seriously," Japanese transport minister Keiichi Ishii said in Tokyo. "We will consider necessary measures including administrative punishments in light of the ruling."
According to Japan Airlines, Jitsukawa has admitted to drinking two bottles of wine and more than 1.8 liters of beer over six hours from 6 p.m. the night before he was due to be part of the crew of Flight JL44 to Tokyo from London on Oct. 28. He cheated a pre-flight alcohol test administered at the airline's office and briefly boarded the plane.
But a bus driver who transported crew to the aircraft smelt alcohol and alerted airport security officials.
Jitsukawa used mouthwash before the arrival of police officers and told security officials he had not been drinking.
Breath and blood tests by police confirmed that the alcohol levels in his system exceeded the legal limit by about 10 times and nine times, respectively. His arrest delayed the flight by 69 minutes and the aircraft was operated with two pilots rather than three.
A number of incidents involving drinking by airline pilots have come to light recently in Japan, prompting the government to consider implementing tighter alcohol consumption rules for crew.
Under the current Japanese system, flight crew members are prohibited from drinking within eight hours of starting work but there is no law or regulation setting a legal alcohol limit.
Britain's transportation safety law sets a legal limit of alcohol for personnel involved in aviation activities including flight crew, cabin crew and air traffic controllers of 20 milligrams of alcohol per 100 milliliters of blood, except for licensed aircraft engineers, according to Britain's Civil Aviation Authority.