Airbus Spill-Proofs A350 Consoles


For the want of a good fitting cup holder, Airbus had to reengineer the center console of its new flagship A350 long-range twin (with apologies to Ben Franklin). As we reported in February, the use of the conveniently flat and accessible center console as, well, a coffee table prompted the costly diversion of at least two A350s last winter. That resulted in an emergency AD from the European Aviation Safety Administration that essentially banned liquids within reach of the pilots. The AD also mandated a long-term fix and Airbus has reworked the nerve center of the aircraft’s engines to make it “liquid resistant” according to Flight Global.

The integrated flight panel has been redesigned to cast off spills without shutting down any of the engines, which is what happened on a Delta flight from Detroit to Seoul and an Asiana flight from Seoul to Singapore. In both instances one of the engines shut down and couldn’t be restarted. The Delta flight had to go to Fairbanks and the Asiana flight to Manila. After first banning liquids from sensitive areas of the cockpit, Airbus created a cover that would protect the controls. The liquid-resistant integrated flight panel is the final fix and it will be mandated by EASA soon. It’s not clear if the EASA mandate will include bigger cup holders. There are at least two located well out of harm’s way to the left of the captain and right of the FO but they’re too small for the paper cups used by most airport vendors.

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. Well Bob, it seems like great minds think alike. When I clicked on the article I was certain it was going to mention ‘Fate is the Hunter’, and I’m a bit shocked the author did not. Apparently it took a good 60+ years for the industry to recognize the dangers of spilled coffee. The airline pilot Rod Taylor played is likely spinning in his fictional grave. Those who don’t know history are doomed to repeat it, I suppose.

  2. Back in the early 1970s, I was designing control consoles. Food & beverage – and cigarette ashes! – were an omnipresent threat. As was rain water (the consoles occasionally were used outdoors, sans shelter).
    It’s amazing what people drink. And spill. Milkshakes were a favorite, as were gravy-coated french fries.

  3. This is a hoot! Airbus designs, engineers, and produces airliners. And have done so for decades. They don’t know or even consider the size of an airline paper coffee cup while coming up with a better spillage mousetrap to prevent engine shutdown? That would be like not putting in cup holders in a minivan/SUV or making them a size that does not contain the variety of liquids consumed by Biff and Muffy’s kids.

    After four years in the corporate class to airliner refurb business, I can assure you that beneath the leather wrapped interiors, lies multiple science projects of spilled food, liquids, and body fluids that can and have caused all sorts of maintenance headaches with occasional in-flight emergencies. Frankly, I am amazed how resilient an airplane can be with such regular contamination.

  4. Back in the day in Honolulu at flight schools, the problem beverage was beer. You’d open the door of a rental C172, and hear the clatter of beer cans on the apron. On the one hand, that’s a FAR violation, but on the other hand, at least nobody got dehydrated.

    There was also one flight that buzzed the Waikiki beach shoreline, and hit a surf board. I’ll let you calculate what the altitude was for that pass!

    And my favorite, returned Cessnas with 0.5 Hobbs time after a 2-hour flight. Good thermals that day!

  5. Okay, first, denying pilots their coffee / tea / soda is absolutely against the laws of nature and probably several deities!
    Second, their isn’t any way to “spill proof” the center console, at least while still making it accessible and usable.
    Third, more great Airbus engineering….not!

  6. Why didn’t they apply that clear film liquid and dirt protector that you can put on your own conmputer key boards. I now they deterioriate after a while, so make them easy to change out every month or so.

  7. You know, European cars used to not have cup holders and they had to be added to sell in America. The Airbus is a European design. Could it be that Airbus could not conceive of anyone using their $350 million aircraft as a “Dashboard Diner”? I mean if you would not eat or drink in your Mercedes….

  8. 1. Design an angled top surface for the console.
    2. Contact paper cup mfrs about the possibility of creating Official Airbus Pilot-Model Coffee Cups which fit the OEM cupholders, available only to pilots checked out in type.
    Problem solved.