A spokesperson for Air France has confirmed that a Captain and First Officer have been suspended and are under investigation for “totally inappropriate behaviour” in which the two pilots allegedly became involved in a mid-flight physical altercation in the cockpit.
According to a report leaked by the French daily newspaper La Tribune, cabin crew heard the pilots fighting through the cockpit door and had to enter the flight deck to separate the two.
One of the flight attendants then remained on the flight deck for the remainder of the flight to prevent the pilots from fighting again. It remains unclear what caused the pilots to fall out on such a spectacular level during the flight in June 2022.
A spokesperson for Air France noted that the flight continued without further incident and landed safely. The Captain and First Officer are not flying pending the outcome of an internal investigation.
The revelation, however, comes just days after France’s national aviation accident agency published a highly critical report of the ‘just safety’ culture amongst Air France pilots.
The report from the Bureau d’enquêtes et d’analyses (BEA) concluded that “there is a certain culture among some Air France crews which encourages a propensity to underestimate the extent to which strict compliance with procedures contributes to safety.”
The BEA said that incidents involving Air France remained “extremely limited” but that in several recent investigations, the agency had found that crew at the airline had failed to carry out procedures in a “compliant manner”.
Investigators claim safety margins were reduced “without the crew being really aware of it”.
The findings were part of a BEA report which investigated the way Air France pilots handled a fuel leak on an Airbus A330 flight between Brazzaville in Congo and Paris on 31st December 2020.
Shortly after takeoff, the pilots noticed they were short of 1.4 tonnes of fuel, and around 25 minutes later, they started a special fuel leak procedure after noticing the levels of fuel had dropped even further but stopped at the point where they were meant to shut down one of the engines.
The pilots discussed the possibility of shutting down the engine several times but the BEA found that the Captain’s “propensity to express himself first… was not conducive to the co-pilots expressing their opinions and doubts”. The decision not to shut the engine down in-flight presented a “significant fire hazard”.
In another incident in September 2020, the pilots of an Airbus A319 partially “disregarded operational procedures” so that they could make a fast but destabilized approach for landing at Paris Orly Airport.
An Air France pilot’s union recently warned that its members were suffering from “chronic fatigue” and depression. The Alter union also claimed Air France Group chief executive Benjamin Smith was pursuing a personal ambition to hit profit targets in spite of warnings that flight safety could be jeopardised.
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.