French pilot says he was tied to pole, ‘fired at’ in hazing ritual

Pilot says he was made to wear a hood and tied to a target at a firing range by colleagues after his induction at the Solenzara air base in 2019

Photos shared by the pilot show his face wrapped in a hood and his limbs tied up while he is fastened to a firing target

A French air force pilot has alleged that he was tied to a target on a firing range while fighter planes fired at him during a hazing ritual in 2019 at the Solenzara air base on the French Mediterranean island of Corsica.

According to the complaint of the pilot accessed by Reuters, he was subjected to the hazing ritual after getting inducted at a combat fighter unit at the Solenzara air base.

The pilot said colleagues made him wear a hood, forced him into the back of a pick-up van and drove him to the firing range. The same is corroborated by photos in which a man with his head wrapped in a black hood and his legs and hands tied up is seen fastened to a firing target. Videos attached in the complaint, also show fighter planes making low passes.

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The pilot alleged that during the passes, he could hear the sound of live rounds being fired from the planes. He, however, didn’t identify the people involved in the hazing ritual in his complaint. The pilot has also refused to reveal his identity to the press.

Colonel Stephane Spet, spokesperson of the French air force, told Reuters that the people responsible for the act have been punished after an internal inquiry, with the most severe punishment being restriction to the barracks. He also refused to divulge the identities or the number of people who were punished.

While he did not deny the authenticity of the photos shared by the complainant, Spet said they created a false impression that the firing was directed at the pilot. He said the firing was part of aircraft exercise at a different location and the closest munition was at a distance of one kilometre.

The pilot’s lawyer Frederic Berna said the photos and videos of the incident were shot by service members who were present at the spot. These images were later shared in a WhatsApp group and members of the group forwarded the photos to the complainant.

Berna said his client didn’t complain earlier as he didn’t want to challenge military authorities, but when his internal complaint in 2020 was not heeded by authorities, he decided to file a criminal case.

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