Coffee Spill Sparks Mid-Atlantic Diversion


For the want of an appropriately sized paper coffee cup and lid (sorry, Ben), likely tens of thousands of dollars and at least one day at the beach were lost by those affected by a mid-Atlantic diversion of Condor A330 earlier this year. The inconvenient chain of events damaged the airplane and disrupted the travel plans of hundreds of travelers heading to Cancun for some winter sunshine from dreary Frankfurt last February. The U.K.’s Air Accidents Investigations Branch recently issued a report (page 55) on the emergency landing of the plane that happened about three hours after the captain, the pilot monitoring, got himself a cup of Joe. He put it on one of the little folding tables that Airbus provides pilots in the relatively spacious cockpit, possibly because the cups available onboard didn’t fit properly in his cupholder. It dumped all over his lap and a bit went into the console between the two pilots.

Although the pilots did their best to mop up the spill, some coffee seeped into the communications gear in the console. It immediately took out the PA system and part of the radio. They pressed on for a while using the FO’s console but turned for Shannon, Ireland, about a half-hour later when the captain’s console started to smoke. Soon after, the first officer’s panel started to smoke and melt but they were still a long way from a runway. “During the diversion, the flight crew alternately used supplementary oxygen, with one pilot on oxygen at all times,” the report said. When the aircraft landed uneventfully in Shannon, five people were taken to a local hospital for smoke inhalation. The airline investigated and subsequently ensured properly sized cups, with lids, are provided. It also issued a memo reminding pilots to please use the lids and cupholders.

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. The same incident was portrayed in the 1964 movie “Fate is the Hunter” with Glenn Ford. It should be a must watch for its design engineers!

    • “The airline investigated and subsequently ensured properly sized cups, with lids, are provided”

      Yea, I guess that solves the A330 cockpit design issue.

  2. Pulling the effected radio breakers would have stopped the smoke issue.
    5 people were taken to a hospital – pax in first class? or??

  3. In my opinion, there should be no eating, drinking (not even water) in a car, airplane (whatever) if you are driving! I saw a lady driving next to me eating with a fork one day! The problems is that when these idiots weed themselves out, they often take others with them…