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A Japan Airlines (JAL) pilot was arrested in London on Sunday after it was discovered that his blood-alcohol content was almost ten times over the legal limit.

Japan Airlines flight JL44 was due to take off just 50 minutes after tests showed that First Officer Jitsukawa had 189 mg of alcohol per 100 ml of blood in his body.

He was detected by the sensitive nose of a crew bus driver, who smelled alcohol and reported him to police, according to Japanese broadcaster NHK.

Katsutoshi Jitsukawa was arrested by United Kingdom police at Heathrow airport for violating British aviation law, the airline said in a press release.

The co-pilot, identified as Katsutoshi Jitsukawa, 42, was arrested by British police and required to undergo a blood test that confirmed those results.

British authorities notified JAL that breath and blood tests on the co-pilot found alcohol levels far exceeding the legal limit, the airline said.

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The legal limit for pilots is 20 mg, while drivers in England, Wales and Northern Ireland are allowed as much as 80 mg.

Jitsukawa acknowledged he had drunk about two bottles of wine and a pitcher of beer the previous night, NHK said.

He was ordered detained until he is sentenced on November 29.

In a statement, the airline said: "The company sincerely apologises to the passengers and to all affected by the employee's actions".

"We will implement immediate actions to prevent any future occurrence and to regain our customer's trust".

In a separate case last week, Japanese domestic airline All Nippon Airways was forced to apologize after five flights were delayed by a hungover pilot, the Associated Press reports.