Reports have emerged that an airline had to take action when two of its pilots had a fight in the middle of a flight. So what happened?
Aircraft cockpits aren’t huge. There is some variability there, for example with A320 pilots boasting of the extra space in their workplace, compared to 737 pilots. But whatever the size, the fact remains that the two pilots will be alone there for hours at a time. And given the high stakes of the job, this is about the last place where you’d want to see a heated argument erupt.
Nonetheless, pilots are human, and not all humans can get along with all other humans. Airlines and crews have certain strategies to deal with this issue. But when a disagreement between pilots becomes a fight, we know that these strategies didn’t work. This event isn’t new. According to reports and statements from the airline, it happened back in June.
We don’t know the exact date of the event, but it appears that it happened on an Air France flight between Geneva and Paris. A spokesperson from the company confirmed that the event happened, describing it as “totally inappropriate behavior”. However, the same statement says that the two pilots resolved this fight quickly.
Pilots Get In A Cockpit Fight
It appears that the two pilots may have had a dispute before leaving the ground, which escalated over time. It seems that the matter got out of hand early on in the flight, during the aircraft’s climb. The affair became a fight when one of the pilots either hit or slapped the other, according to La Tribune newspaper. Then both pilots grabbed each other by the collars.
The noise was enough to alert the cabin crew. One or more of them entered the cockpit and intervened. The fight ended there, but one cabin crew member stayed with the two pilots for the remainder of the flight. Air France has since suspended both pilots, while management is trying to decide how to deal with them, moving forward.
Interestingly, the French air accident investigation authority (BEA) is not working on a report for this event. This is because BEA did not get a notification for this fight between pilots. The authority stated that it didn’t expect this to change since the event did not have any consequences for the flight.
In any case, this is not the first time that we’ve seen a fight or other escalating event between pilots. A little over a month ago, we saw what might have been such an event, on an Alaska Airlines flight. Fortunately for everyone involved, the event took place on the ground. That flight’s Captain decided to return the aircraft to the gate, stating that the problem was “a failure of the captain and first officer to get along”. The flight went ahead with another captain.
Staying Out Of Trouble
Last year we saw another in-flight fight, complete with fisticuffs – but not between pilots. This event was between the captain and a cabin crew member, on a Donghai Airlines flight in China. On that occasion, the captain was unhappy about a security matter relating to a toilet visit. The cabin crew member fractures an arm, while the captain lost a tooth. That flight landed safely at its destination.
There are certain things that pilots avoid discussing. These certainly include politics and religion – but this is a partial list. Hot divisive topics “du jour” often aren’t immediately obvious subjects to avoid. Even sports can trigger some people unnecessarily.
In any case, pilots generally have more options, to help them avoid anything resembling a fight. They can request not to be rostered with a specific pilot, for instance. They must also avoid any not-flight-related conversation in sensitive phases of the flight.
Each airline’s rules may vary, but the end result must be the same. Those two people locked in the small room with the big windows at the front must be able to work together, for the safety of those sitting behind them.
Spyros Georgilidakis has degrees in Business Enterprise and Management. He has 14 years of experience in the hospitality and travel industries, along with a passion for all-things-aviation and travel logistics. He is also an experienced writer and editor for on-line publications, and a licensed professional drone pilot.