Pilot Spills Coffee Causing Emergency Landing

Pilot Spills Coffee Causing Emergency Landing

An in-depth investigation regarding a diverted trans-Atlantic flight has finally concluded earlier this week. On February 6, an Airbus A 330’s flight to Cancun from Frankfurt was diverted to Shannon, Ireland. The flight was carrying 337 passengers, including 11 crew members at the time of the incident. Despite the original explanation of a random audio technical issue, the true reason has finally been revealed after a lengthy investigation. According to the United Kingdom’s aviation authority, the pilot spilled coffee on the audio controls for the aircraft. They pressed on for a while using the first officer’s console, but turned for Shannon half an hour later when the captain’s console started to smoke.

Although a minor coffee spill in the cockpit would usually not be detrimental to flight, this coffee spill resulted in the melting of some controls that later led the entire console to smoke. The pilot reportedly did not have a lid on his cup of coffee and spilled the majority of the coffee on his lap. The rest of the coffee landed on the communications equipment mid-flight. To comply with safety rules and regulations, the pilot decided to divert to Ireland rather than continue the flight with over 300 passengers on board. 


While the flight was still a long way off from the runway in Shannon, the first officer’s panel began to smoke as well. During the diversion, the flight crew alternately used supplementary oxygen, and one pilot was on oxygen at all times. The flight landed with no major difficulties, but five people were taken to a local hospital in Shannon due to smoke inhalation.


The aircraft manufacturer itself recommends using the cup holder in all circumstances. Airbus provides pilots with folding tables for food which include cup holders. The size of cup used by the pilot on the flight reportedly made it more difficult to take cups in and out of the cup holder. The top of the cup was narrower than the average cup the holder was built for, resulting in an inconvenience that forced the pilot to leave the cup on top of the table. This incompatibility generally discouraged use of the cup holder, despite the policy. Ultimately, the pilot would have been better off simply throwing away his beverage. 


Vigdor, Neil. “Pilot’s Coffee Spill Forced Trans-Atlantic Flight to Turn Around, an Inquiry Shows.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 14 Sept. 2019, www.nytimes.com/2019/09/13/travel/condor-airlines-coffee-spill.html.yy