Two Air France pilots have been suspended after coming to blows in the cockpit in mid-air, an airline official has revealed as investigators called for tougher safety protocols on flights.
Switzerland’s Tribune de Geneve reported that the pilot and co-pilot had a row shortly after take-off and grabbed each other by their collars after one apparently hit the other.
Cabin crew intervened and one crew member spent the flight from Geneva to Paris in the cockpit with the pilots, the report said. A spokesperson for France’s flag carrier said the fight was “totally innappropriate behaviour”.
The flight continued and landed safely, the official said, stressing the airline’s commitment to safety after several recent incidents raised alarm with regulators.
Details of the fight emerged days after France’s air investigation agency, BEA, issued a report saying that some Air France pilots sometimes ignored safety rules.
It focused on a fuel leak on an Airbus A33 flight from Brazzaville in the Republic of the Congo to Paris in December 2020, when the crew risked a fire in the engine with 136 passengers on board.
Pilots rerouted the plane but did not cut power to the engine or land as soon as possible, as leak procedure requires. The plane landed safely at N’Djamena airport in Chad, but the BEA report warned that the leaking fuel could have ignited and set the engine alight.
“Fire was avoided by luck,” investigators said.
The report covered three similar cases between 2017 and 2022 and said some pilots were neglecting standard safety measures and relying on their own analyses of risk.
Air France said it was carrying out a safety audit in response. It pledged to follow the BEA’s recommendations, which include allowing pilots to study their flights afterwards and making training manuals stricter about sticking to procedure.
The airline noted that it flies thousands of flights daily and the report mentions only four such safety incidents.
Air France pilots unions have insisted that security is paramount to all pilots and defended pilot actions during emergency situations.
The BEA also investigated an incident in April involving an Air France flight from New York’s JFK airport that suffered flight control problems on approach to its landing in Paris.
The pilots of the Boeing 777 were forced to abort an attempt to land at Charles de Gaulle airport after telling air traffic controllers the aircraft had become unresponsive.
In cockpit audio from the incident, one pilot was heard saying: “The aeroplane is pretty much going nuts.”
The flight landed safely after circling around to reapproach the runway.