Cockpit fistfight between pilots leads to Air France suspension
France’s air investigation agency said some pilots lacked rigour when it came to respecting safety protocols.
Air France suspended two of its pilots for fighting in the cockpit during a Geneva-Paris flight in June.
Despite the fistfight, the flight continued and landed safely, and the dispute didn’t affect the rest of the flight, an airline official said on Sunday, stressing its commitment to safety.
According to a report by the French La Tribune daily, the pilot and co-pilot had a dispute shortly after takeoff and grabbed each other by their collars after one apparently hit the other.
Cabin crew then intervened and one crew member spent the flight in the cockpit with the pilots, the report said.
News of the fight emerged after France’s air investigation agency, BEA, issued a report on Wednesday saying some Air France pilots lack rigour with regards to respecting safety protocols.
The report focused on a fuel leak on an Air France flight from Brazzaville in the Republic of Congo to Paris in December 2020, when pilots rerouted the plane but did not cut power to the engine or land as soon as possible, as procedure requires.
The plane landed safely in Chad, but the BEA report warned the engine could have caught fire.
It mentioned three similar cases between 2017 and 2022, and said some pilots are reacting by personally analysing the situation instead of following safety procedures.
The BEA also investigated an incident in April involving an Air France flight from New York City’s JFK airport that suffered flight control problems on approach to its landing in Paris.
After the incident, BEA said, the two pilots “simultaneously made inputs on the controls” during a go-around for a second attempt.
“The captain held the control column in a slightly nose-down position while the co-pilot made several, more pronounced, nose-up inputs,” the report said.
Air France said it is carrying out a safety audit in response. It pledged to follow the BEA’s recommendations, which include allowing pilots to study their flights afterward and making training manuals stricter about adhering to procedure.
The airline noted it flies thousands of flights daily and the report mentions only four such safety incidents.
Air France pilots’ unions have insisted security is paramount to all pilots and defended pilot actions during emergency situations.