New French Air Force Pilot Tied To Live Gunnery Range Target In Hazing


French authorities say a newly minted pilot was in no danger when fellow pilots of his first squadron blindfolded and tied him to a liberally bullet-marked concrete target on an active live aerial gunnery range. The fresh graduate was assigned to a combat fighter squadron on the French island of Corsica and not long after he arrived his squadron mates put a hood over his head, tied his hands and feet with tape and bundled him into the back of pickup for a trip to the range, according to a civil complaint filed by the pilot this week.

He was strapped to the X-shaped target mounted on a concrete pillar as some of his mates made low passes and the sound of gunfire could be heard in the not-too-distant distance. French officials said this week the closest he came to an actual bullet was a little more than half a mile.

There were photos and video taken of the incident, which are now in the hands of French civilian prosecutors. The air force acknowledged the substance of the allegations and said it was dealt with in May of 2019 when the CO of the squadron got wind of it. The squadron members responsible were confined to barracks for an unspecified period of time.

The pilot continues to fly but not at that squadron. His lawyer told European news sources he didn’t want to make waves initially so didn’t file a complaint in 2019. It weighed on him and he took it to his superiors at the end of 2020. He filed the civilian action because of inaction by the military brass, the lawyer reportedly said.

The air force didn’t disagree with the claims but it did want to clear up any impression that anyone was actually using the pilot for target practice. The gunfire the pilot heard came from an adjacent range about a kilometer away. It also said such behavior is not condoned. “The Air Force condemns any activity that could cause physical or psychological damage to its personnel,” it said in a statement.

Russ Niles
Russ Niles is Editor-in-Chief of AVweb. He has been a pilot for 30 years and joined AVweb 22 years ago. He and his wife Marni live in southern British Columbia where they also operate a small winery.

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  1. *SIGH* A sign of the times. Back in the day when you got hazed you didn’t whine, you got even.

  2. “Got even?” I think it’s a lot more courageous to stand up for what is right, rather than wimp out and “suck it up”. Air Force officers are way too bright to allow themselves to stoop to such behavior. Rites of passage are not intended to belittle, intimidate, humiliate, or demean “newbies”. Rather, “newbies” should be congratulated for their achievements. It’s not every pilot who succeeds to become a fighter pilot. That crowning achievement should be celebrated by her/his peers.

    • @Rich K:
      Finally a educated and reflected comment – could not agree more!
      Apparently here the opinion is quite widespread that an fighter pilot should be able to endure dumb bullying and humiliating behaviours from his colleagues and role-models. What utter non-sense.
      If you do that to any person, it is very likeley that he will do it to another person at some later day.
      And a fighter pilot should never do that.
      Especially in the Armee de l’Air they are usually expected to be the best of the best.
      Well educated. Self reflected. Ballanced. Thoughtful and Respectful (even to enemies).

  3. If he can’t take that then he picked the wrong career. I would expect more out of a combat fighter pilot.

  4. Being able to “take it” doesn’t make it right, and doesn’t prove anything. Passing the training program should have already proved anything that needed proving about the individual.

  5. So… there is currently a shortage of military pilots. Do we really need to look like a bunch of clowns doing stupid stuff like this.

  6. When Air Force pilots start acting like brainless frat boys we are all in trouble. You don’t build esprit by acting like a twit.

  7. Ahhh… the days of hazing. When men were Warriors… and hurt feelings were expected.
    Wars are lost when emotional people think saying “I fart in your general direction” will win wars.

    • Rose colored glasses sir. Wars are not lost by “emotional people” standing up to abuse. The reality is that all wars are unfortunate and it’s scary to think that emotional adolescents like the ones responsible here will in the not to distant future be military leaders commanding during future wars

  8. The Pilot should have embraced this ritual as a rite of passage. Instead he got but hert because France obviously has a snowflake culture too.

    The world we live in today is so vastly different than the world I grew up in. What went wrong?

  9. I can’t comment having not served but I think those who have not served, much less not fighter pilots, need to remember this is a special breed of men, with special skills, killer instincts, ethics, with a much higher adversity tolerance than your average snowflake. Putting out ideal on them may not be appropriate.

  10. Was he in no danger because that range wasn’t in use, or is French marksmanship really awful?

  11. Be interested to know the context. Was he singled out and it was some awkward remnant of a previous culture? Maybe not good. Or does everyone cop some random, freaky stuff? If so, that’s part of the preparation for being a warrior. The lack of brass interest suggests it. If so it’s uncomfortable, challenging and meant to weed out people who are less likely to cope in a shooting war. In the years after 911 French vets had significantly lower suicide rates than US. If their system prepares people better to survive and thrive through and beyond their service period, good.

    • Ah, probably more likely due to the difference in overall suicide rate. The rate in France for males is about 33% lower than for the US.