CBC News has obtained an internal Air Canada bulletin warning flight crews they could be fired or face criminal charges for placing “inappropriate material” in the flight deck, also called the cockpit.   

It was sent last year, four months after a similar reminder to stop hiding “suggestive images in Company aircraft” appears to have been ignored.

“I am disappointed to have to raise this issue once again but unfortunately we have some people that have yet to understand the message,” writes Rod Graham, Air Canada’s chief pilot and director of fleet operations and training.

The warnings come six years after a female pilot says she started finding pornography displayed, glued and tucked in a variety of areas in the cockpit on Air Canada’s Embraer fleet of planes.

Air Canada investigated her complaint and found “evidence of racial or ethnic prejudice as well as sexual materials in the work place,” according to documents obtained by CBC News through an Access to Information request.

The pilot provided Transport Canada inspectors with photos and video of the sexually explicit, and at times violent, images she says she found.

“Someone has drawn a knife in the back of the girl on the right hand side,” she writes in one email.

“The fact that porn IS still present and… very much on the minds of the individuals that fly the EMJ [Embraer planes], should ring alarm bells for your department as much as it does for me,” she writes in an email dated Aug. 3, 2013.

‘Things can go wrong’

The head of the association that represents civil service pilots says offensive material has no place in the flight deck.

“You have to pay attention to what you're doing in an aircraft at all times. And reading inappropriate material is a complete distraction, and things can go wrong,” says Daniel Slunder, president of the Canadian Federal Pilots Association.

Transport Canada told CBC News that its investigation found that Air Canada did not violate aviation safety, and that Transport Canada is not responsible for “regulating reading material in the flight deck.”

However, notes in a Transport Canada log dated Aug. 19, 2013 show an inspector with the regulatory agency tried to get Air Canada to take the problem more seriously.

Transport Canada report on Air Canada complaint

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“Pilots are stuffing paper material inside compartments where electrical wiring is and that this is a hazard not to mention that this is a form of workplace violence,” writes Mary Pollock, an aviation health and safety occupational officer.

CBC News asked Air Canada if it had identified who was placing inappropriate material in the flight deck, but did not receive a response to this particular question.

“The material in question consisted almost entirely of inappropriate business cards and was confined mainly to one aircraft type and route, our Embraer E-90s operating to Las Vegas,” writes Air Canada spokesperson Peter Fitzpatrick in an email to CBC News.

The airline says it wasted no time when it learned of the problem, taking corrective action through pilot training.

However, Air Canada did say that more explicit material was found as recently as February of this year.

Do you have more information related to this story? Contact diana.swain@cbc.ca and/or marnie.luke@cbc.ca.