PARIS (AP) — Punches in the cockpit, leaving a leaking engine running while flying over Africa — Air France pilots are under scrutiny after recent incidents have prompted French investigators to call for stricter safety protocols.
Two Air France pilots were suspended after getting into a physical fight in the cabin of a Geneva-Paris flight in June, an Air France official said on Sunday. The flight continued and landed safely, and the dispute did not affect the rest of the flight, the official said, emphasizing the airline’s commitment to safety.
French newspaper La Tribune reported that the pilot and co-pilot got into a dispute shortly after takeoff, grabbing each other’s throats after apparently hitting the other. Cabin crew intervened and a crew member spent the flight in the cockpit with the pilots, according to the report.
News of the fight emerged after France’s aviation research agency, BEA, issued a report on Wednesday saying that some Air France pilots lack rigor in respecting procedures during security incidents.
It focused on a fuel leak on an Air France flight from Brazzaville in the Republic of the Congo to Paris in December 2020, when pilots diverted the plane but failed to cut engine power and land as soon as possible, as required by the escape procedure. The plane landed safely in Chad, but the BEA report warned that the engine could have caught fire.
He cited three similar cases between 2017 and 2022, saying some pilots are acting based on their own analysis of the situation rather than safety protocols.
Air France said it is carrying out a safety audit in response. He has pledged to follow BEA recommendations, which include allowing pilots to study their flights later and making training manuals more stringent about procedural compliance.
The airline noted that it operates thousands of daily flights and the report mentions only four such security incidents.
Air France pilots’ unions have insisted that safety is paramount for all pilots and defended pilots’ 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 land in Paris.