Air India co-pilot beat up pilot in cockpit, airline sources say

Tension between an airline captain and his co-pilot in the cockpit of an Air India flight shortly before takeoff Sunday led to an argument that airline sources say ended with one man beating the other.

The Airbus 320 was on the ground in Jaipur, India Sunday evening heading for Delhi when the commander asked his co-pilot to perform a routine task: writing down important statistics needed for the flight, including the number of passengers on board, the plane’s takeoff weight and fuel intake.

“The co-pilot took offense at this and reportedly beat up the captain," an airline source told the Times of India newspaper.

Numerous sources said the co-pilot abused and beat up the senior pilot, but an Air India spokesman said the two had an argument, and denied any physical altercation.  

The senior pilot decided to continue to fly AI flight 611 to Delhi because reporting the incident before the flight took off would have led to a flight cancellation and passengers left stranded.

When he landed in Delhi, the captain reported the incident before returning to his home base of Mumbai.

An Air India spokesman tried to end speculation on the incident. "The two had an argument. They have settled the issue," the unidentified spokesman said.

Both pilots have been removed from duty following the incident, Sky News reported.

"Both the pilots have been derostered. An inquiry has been ordered into this," the spokesman for the airline said.

The co-pilot has reportedly faced similar charges in the past, senior Air India commanders said.    

"Three years back, he asked the commander of a flight to come out of the cockpit, remove the stars on his shirt collar (epaulettes) and then fought with him. A year later, another commander complained about his 'rude and unbecoming' behavior in the cockpit and questioned his state of mind," an unidentified senior commander told the Times of India.

Neither the DGCA chief nor her deputies could be reached for comment on the incident. The Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) is the Indian government’s civil aviation department—much like the National Transportation Safety Board in the U.S.

Sunday's dispute comes on the heels of last month’s crash of Germanwings flight 9525. French investigators believe the plane’s co-pilot – who had a history of severe depression—deliberately flew the plane into the French Alps, killing all 150 people onboard.