Air France Pilots Suspended After Mid-Air Altercation in Cockpit

Two Air France pilots have been suspended after physically fighting in the cockpit on a Geneva-Paris flight in June, an Air France has official said on Sunday.

The flight continued and landed safely, and the dispute didn't affect the rest of the flight, the official said, stressing the airline's commitment to safety.

Scuffle in the Cockpit

Air France
Air France Instagram

Switzerland's La Tribune reported that the pilot and co-pilot had a dispute shortly after take-off and grabbed each other by their collars after one apparently hit the other.

One pilot's version of the events indicated an "inadvertent blow" that led to the escalation of aggression. The other pilot claims that it was a slap. Eventually, one of the pilots alleged the other threw a wooden object in his face.

Upon hearing the noise in the cockpit, members of the cabin crew stepped in to calmly defuse the situation just as the tension died down. One member of the cabin even stayed in the flight deck with the pilots for the remainder of the journey to ensure peace and record the situation for later review.

Air France Statement

The airline confirmed the dispute and exchange of inappropriate gestures without further revealing the altercation's specifics. The source of the disagreement was not readily apparent and may be either a personal reason or a professional cause, such as the co-pilot's refusal to follow instructions.

Air France established that "the incident ended quickly without affecting either the conduct or the safety of the flight which continued normally" and specified that the airline had removed the pilots involved from active flying pending a managerial decision.

The incident was not referred to France's civil aviation safety investigation authority, the Bureau d'Enquetes et d'Analyses (BEA), who confirmed it was not notified of the incident as there were no consequences for the flight.

Air France to Perform Safety Audit Following BEA Report Over Safety Violations

The news of the in-flight altercation follows a report by the BEA published earlier this week, which points to several potential safety violations from the carrier. Most notably, a flight on December 31, 2020, from Brazzaville (Congo) to Paris onboard an Airbus A330. After a fuel tank leak was discovered, the pilots in question failed to follow standard emergency procedures of shutting down the engine to decrease the risk of the leaking fuel catching fire. The aircraft successfully diverted, and all passengers and crew disembarked safely.

Air France has responded to the report with a pledge to conduct a safety audit and a beef up of post-flight analysis, including expanded opportunities for each pilot to access the analysis of their own flights to improve performance and safety measures.