Argentine airline Austral Líneas Aéreas announced that it has terminated two pilots after they invited model Victoria Xipolitakis into the cockpit and allowed her to fly the plane, including during takeoff. Xipolitakis is best known for appearing on Argentine TV shows as well as in the Greek verison of Playboy.
The incident occurred on Monday June 22nd while onboard Flight 2708 from Buenos Aires to Rosario, Argentina. During her experience in the cockpit, Xipolitakis took selfies, recorded videos, and operated the throttles on the Embraer ERJ-190’s twin engines.
An Embraer ERJ-190 twinjet operated by Austral, one of SkyTeam’s member airlines.
Pilots Patricio Zocchi Molina and Federico Matias Soaje were named in the statement as having been terminated, “as well as the rest of the staff with responsibility in this event,” suggesting that others may be held accountable. Austral Líneas Aéreas also announced that Xipolitakis would be banned from the airline for five years, and criminal proceedings would be initiated against all involved for “putting the flight’s safety at risk.”
Takeoff is one of the most important times during flight operations, when a pilot’s attention must be focused and the cockpit environment must be free of distractions. In addition to the invited guest being a distraction, one of the pilots apparently is also apparently looking at his cell phone during takeoff.
As a result of their incredibly negligent behavior, 11 of the 36 passengers on board are preparing to file suit against the airline and the individuals involved for “endangering their lives.” We wouldn’t be surprised if more followed suit. Whatever the pilots were thinking when they invited Victoria Xipolitakis into their workplace, it most certainly wasn’t about unemployment, criminal charges and lawsuits.
Image Credit: Austral Embraer ERJ-190 in SkyTeam livery - Robert Underwood/Wikicommons, All others - Victoria Xipolitakis