Pilot destroys airplane control panel with spilled coffee

Illustration for article titled Pilot destroys airplane control panel with spilled coffee
Photo: aapsky (iStock)

Who among us has never spilled coffee all over themselves while driving? It’s a highly relatable error, which is why I’m certain that the passengers on a commercial flight were most definitely cool with their pilot frying the plane’s control panel by spilling coffee all over it. Everyone makes mistakes.


The not-at-all concerning incident occurred in February as an Airbus A330-243 was soaring over the vast and extremely deep Atlantic Ocean, Reuters reports. It did not come to media attention, though, until an investigation into the incident appeared in an civil aviation safety report issued this week. According to that report, though the cockpit was equipped with cupholders—ostensibly installed to prevent accidents exactly like this one—the pilot chose to put his unlidded cup up on a wobbly tray table, because he likes his sugar with coffee and cream....and danger.

Naturally, it spilled. After the control panel started billowing smoke and emitting the potent, unmistakable smell of an electrical fire, the plane was turned around, making an emergency landing. The report from the Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB) did not mention the reactions of the 326 passengers aboard who’d boarded in Germany and expected to be stepping off the plane in beautiful, sunny Cancun, but instead found themselves on temporary holiday in a midsized airport Shannon, Ireland. It also did not name the airline, presumably to keep the pilot in question from public shaming.

Though there were no injuries, the AAIB has implemented rules that require all coffee to be served with lids. Crews will also be reminded why using lids are important, just in case they don’t personally find this incident terrifying.

Allison Robicelli is a writer, recipe czar, former professional chef, author of four (quite good) books, and The People's Hot Pocket Princess. Tweet me for recipe help: @Robicellis.


The airline was Condor, and it wasn’t entirely the pilot’s fault. The Airbus does have cup holders, but Condor supplied cups that didn’t fit right in them, and then the flight attendent didn’t supply a lid.

The important part, though, is that the flight wasn’t ever in danger. They had communications trouble, but the plane was fine to fly. They could have gone to the destination without incident, but that’s not how a safety mindset works so they diverted.

The airline, btw, has already said it’s gonna start supplying cups that fit the cup holders from now on.