A Transatlantic Flight Was Diverted Because ... Coffee

Imagine being one of the 326 passengers on this transatlantic flight!

A Condor Airlines flight flying non-stop from Germany to Cancun was diverted to Ireland, because the pilot spilled coffee on the airplane's control panel. It happened earlier this year, but we're just finding out about it, thanks to the release of the official report on the incident (starting on p.61). A flight attendant had given the pilot a cup of coffee without a lid, and he put it on his tray table. Sure enough, he accidentally knocked it over.

Now when I spill something on a piece of electronics, it's usually our studio equipment and I'll clean it up as fast as possible -- hoping to avoid any equipment malfunctions. I can imagine the flight crew had the same thought, but it was already too late. The control panel on the Airbus A330 aircraft quickly became very hot, started to smoke, and had that awful electrical burning smell. The damage and fumes were enough to cause "significant communication difficulty for the flight crew," and the crew even put on oxygen masks. So the captain made the decision to divert and landed safely in Shannon, Ireland. Not much harm done, and no injuries. It was ultimately such a minor event that it didn't even make the news, until now.

I guess the lesson here is to use the cup holders provided in the cockpit, and maybe put a lid on your coffee.

The airline has updated its policies and now requires that lids be available on all flights, and that pilots actually use them. Condor flies non-stop to Frankfurt, Germany from many US cities, including New Orleans.

Coffee Photo Source: AAIB Bulletin 9/2019 / Condor A321 Photo Source: Ken Fielding



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