Coffee spilled on control panel forced 326 passenger plane to divert to Shannon

An AAIB chart of the incident.
An AAIB chart of the incident.

A large aircraft carrying 326 passengers and 11 crew had to divert to Shannon Airport after coffee was spilled onto the commander’s audio control panel (ACP) damaging the plane's VHF radio unit.

The Airbus A330-243 was en route from Frankfurt to Cancun but ended up in County Clare when the incident occurred in February, Britain's Air Accident Investigation Branch reported today.

An example of how an Airbus coffee cup holder should be used.

An example of how an Airbus coffee cup holder should be used.

"Coffee was spilled onto the commander’s audio control panel (ACP). This resulted in failure of his ACP and later, the ACP on the co-pilot’s side.

"During the failures, the ACPs became very hot and produced an electrical burning smell and smoke. The commander decided to divert to Shannon, Republic of Ireland.

"The failure of two ACPs caused significant communication difficulty for the flight crew. The operator has taken safety action to reduce the chance of spillage," according to an AAIB safety bulletin.

The accident report states that the spillage occurred while the commander was "pilot monitoring".

"He put the coffee on his tray table while he completed tasks required due to approaching a waypoint. At approximately 1620 hrs, the cup was knocked over. Most of the liquid fell onto the commander’s lap and a small amount spilled onto the commander’s ACP," it states.

The AAIB concluded: "A spillage of coffee on to the centre console led to the failure of ACP 1 and 2 resulting in communication difficulties for the flight crew. The resulting electrical burning smell and smoke in the cockpit necessitated a diversion to Shannon Airport."

The inspectorate added: "The operator changed their procedure to ensure that cup lids are provided for flights on all routes and reminded cabin crew of the requirement to use them.

"The operator also issued a flight crew notice reminding pilots to be careful with liquids. The operator raised an action to source and supply appropriately sized cups for the aircraft’s cup holders."