Partying Pilot Grounded A Day Later, Canceling Flight


A partying pilot who had no alcohol in his system when he reported for his scheduled flight was grounded by Air Japan, forcing cancellation of the flight from Dallas to Tokyo last week. Various reports said the pilot was drinking and carrying on into the wee hours after landing in Dallas on Tuesday during a layover that lasted until late the following night. At one point police were called and the pilot was warned for disruptive behavior but not arrested.

He was scheduled to fly about 20 hours later and passed a sobriety test, but the airline was taking no chances. “We sincerely apologize to the customers who were involved in this flight cancellation. We are fully aware of the seriousness of this situation,” the airline said in a statement, promising to make sure it never happened again.

Russ Niles
Russ Niles is Editor-in-Chief of AVweb. He has been a pilot for 30 years and joined AVweb 22 years ago. He and his wife Marni live in southern British Columbia where they also operate a small winery.


  1. When I got my PPL in the mid-70’s, bottle-to-throttle was 8 hours. I just saw that some airlines now say 12 hours. Air Japan wanted another 8 hours. He must have been really plastered.

  2. My opinion is that airline pilots are (and should be) held to a higher standard. That said, if he tested no alcohol, then there should be no issue.

  3. When we were young our system could clear the alcohol in 20 hours but we were still lagged mentally if totally plastered… That pilot knew his limits perhaps too well.

  4. With 200+ souls on board, “did not exceed the legal limit” and prepared to deal with an in flight emergency over the Pacific are two VERY different things. Kudos to the company for doing what was right and sending the right message.

    • “no alcohol in his system when he reported for his scheduled flight”

      My guess here, is that alcohol was not the problem. It was lack of sleep/rest.

  5. The fundamental problem is that there is no test (blood, breath, or otherwise) for “Good Judgement”. We expect that someone in charge of the lives of everyone sitting behind him to have and exhibit it when on duty. The “Bottle to Breathalyzer” criteria is a poor substitute for “Behave Yourself”, and these modern-day Caesar’s Wives should know that they are being held to a higher standard.

    Too bad we can’t make “legislating while impaired” as Draconian. That’s a far bigger problem, and not limited to alcohol.

  6. I agree with the ‘higher standard’ (and no pun intended) for student pilots up to the airlines… and more so for the airlines.

  7. Okay so we know by this story that there was no alcohol “on board”. There’s a long list of other mind altering substances that could have caused this pilot’s behavioral changes. If they aren’t being tested for, and are being used, was it 8 hours, 12 hours or right before that next flight….

  8. There is more to “8 hours between botlle and throttle” “you also can not be under the influence …”

  9. Without knowing what really happened how can you say what he drank? He might be a real lightweight and becomes an a@@hole after two drinks.

  10. Chemical create impairment at three stages –
    1. Pre use – “drug seeking”, obsessive focus, craving, etc – you are not focused and fit to fly in this state.
    2. Using = intoxication = impairment.
    3. Afterwards = withdrawals, hangover, recovery, detox etc etc – THIS state is impairing also.
    In this case it totally possibly he was legitimately impaired; we don’t have enough data, other than general poor judgement . . . .

  11. The unidentified pilot enjoyed a post-flight dinner with crewmates in Dallas around 6 pm, but the festivities continued well past bedtime. The celebration moved from the restaurant to the hotel lounge and eventually, the pilot’s room, where it reportedly got loud enough to prompt a complaint from a hotel employee at 2 am, the New York Post reported.

    According to the report, concerns about the pilot’s speech and behavior escalated to a call to the police. The pilot received a warning for disruptive behavior by the police but wasn’t arrested.

    Despite this, Air Japan deemed the pilot unfit to fly the following day’s 1:05 am departure.

    While the pilot reportedly had no detectable alcohol levels by the scheduled departure time, Air Japan determined the captain wasn’t fit to fly due to the need to ensure “the crew’s well-being.” (Rest)

    This decision, along with the need to fly in a replacement crew from Japan, caused a significant delay, forcing the airline to cancel the flight altogether.

    The airline transferred its 157 passengers to an American Airlines flight later in the day.

    Customers who had seats on the cancelled flight were told that the cancellation was because of “health issues” among the crew members.

    Unfortunately, a replacement pilot couldn’t be found in time, forcing the airline to cancel the flight entirely.

  12. It was a Japan Airlines flight, not AirJapan. It was JAL11, a 777 going DFW/HND on April 24 that was cancelled. I can’t believe the New York Post got it wrong.