Air India
A fist fight broke out between two Air India pilots on board flight AI 611Reuters

Two Air India pilots have been grounded after a fist-fight broke out between the pair in the cockpit of the jetliner.

The incident occurred shortly before take-off on Sunday (5 April) evening on a flight from Jaipur to Delhi after the captain asked his co-pilot to note down critical figures for the flight, including passenger numbers, weight and fuel details.

Angry at his superior's request, the co-pilot reportedly came to blows with the captain.

"The co-pilot took offence at this and reportedly beat up the captain," the Times of India said, quoting unnamed sources. "In the larger interest of the airline, the commander decided to go ahead with the flight and flew to Delhi," the paper added.

The airline has denied that a physical altercation took place and said that the two had had a verbal argument.

"There was an argument between the two and nothing more," a spokesman for state-run carrier Air India said, adding that the dispute has since been settled.

The two pilots have been relieved of their duties pending an internal investigation.

'Rude and unbecoming' behaviour

Other senior commanders at the airline have said that the co-pilot has previously been involved in clashes with co-workers.

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

"AI and DGCA [Directorate General of Civil Aviation] should examine this latest problem in the cockpit. If the complaints about the said co-pilot's behaviour are found true, then in the interest of aviation safety the authorities must act," said a pilot.

Air India has not reported an annual profit since 2007 and the latest incident is the latest in a series of embarrassments experienced by the company including technical issues and late staff arrival for flights.