Jin Air pilot suspended for trying to fly drunk

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Jin Air pilot suspended for trying to fly drunk

A Jin Air pilot’s license was suspended for 90 days Friday after he was caught drunk an hour before his scheduled flight.

The Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport on Friday announced administrative measures on a total of 10 reported incidents that harm flight safety, including the Jin Air case. Jin Air is the budget carrier of Korean Air.

The first officer pilot of Jin Air, the second in command after the captain, told the Land Ministry that he drank eight bottles of soju with two acquaintances the night before his 7:25 a.m. flight on Nov. 14, an official from the ministry said. The pilot’s blood alcohol level an hour prior to his flight was above the 0.02 percent limit. If there was no safety check-up, the plane could have taken off from Cheongju International Airport in North Chungcheong with a drunken copilot.

As Jin Air is responsible for supervising its pilots, the Land Ministry gave the airline a fine of 420 million won ($376,500). While a more detailed measurement of the pilot’s blood alcohol level should have been reported to the ministry, the ministry official said the safety supervisor in charge of testing that day wasn’t familiar with the device and failed to record his exact blood alcohol level.

The alcohol testing device, used also by police, has two testing modes. One only says if the subject fails or passes and another mode gives detailed blood alcohol figures for those who failed the initial test. The supervisor, however, didn’t know how to go on with second-level testing, as most people he tests pass. The ministry said it will discipline the supervisor and added it will strengthen its training of safety supervisors at regional airports.

An aircraft maintenance mechanic for Korea’s largest budget airline, Jeju Air, was also given a suspension for 60 days for showing up drunk. During the Transport Ministry’s drinking test held on Nov. 1 at the Jeju Air office in Jeju International Airport, the mechanic had a 0.034 percent blood alcohol level. Jeju Air was fined 210 million won ($187,900) by the ministry.

Korean Air was fined 600 million won for problems in the cabin pressurization system in August that caused a plane leaving Kuala Lumpur to turn around and return to the airport. Asiana Airlines was fined 600 million won for not reporting defects on a plane’s fuel system despite malfunctions spotted from June through August.

BY KIM JEE-HEE [kim.jeehee@joongang.co.kr]
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