Plane Diverted After Pilot Spills Coffee on the Controls, Causing Heat, Smoke and Button to Melt

The coffee was spilled on the audio control panels, causing "communication difficulties"

Condor arlines
Photo: Silas Stein/Getty Images

Passengers heading to Mexico from Frankfurt, Germany earlier this year were in for an unexpected pitstop after a cup of coffee derailed their flight.

A Condor Airlines flight was forced to land at the Shannon Airport in Ireland on February 6 after the pilot spilled coffee in the cockpit, causing “a minor amount of smoke,” according to the airline.

The pilot was reportedly handed a cup of coffee without a lid by the a member of the crew and accidentally knocked the cup over when the airbus was already over the North Atlantic Ocean, according to CNN. The pilot, 49, has more than 13,000 hours of flying experience, the outlet reported.

According to an Air Accidents Investigation Branch report published this month, the coffee was spilled on the cockpit’s center console, and while it was cleaned up and dried quickly, the damage to the audio control panels (ACPs) on both the pilot and co-pilot’s sides had been done.

Around 5 p.m., “the ACP1 unit became very hot and failed and there was an electrical burning smell in the cockpit,” the report said. About 20minutes later, the ACP2 unit “became hot enough to start melting one of its buttons, and failed.”

When “a small amount of smoke” began to emanate from the ACP1, the commander decided that it was safest to divert to the Republic of Ireland, especially considering that the ACP failures caused “communication difficulties” between both pilots and between the pilots and the crew.

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“The commander was not able to receive or transmit and could only hear transmissions through the co-pilot’s speaker. There was no interphone between the pilots,” the report said.

The flight crew used supplementary oxygen during the diversion, according to the report, with “one pilot on oxygen at all times.”

Luckily, the smoke stopped on the way to Ireland and the plane landed without further incident, and no one on board the plane had any injuries from the fumes.

A spokesperson for the airline told PEOPLE that the diversion was a “precautionary measure” and that the aircraft was “fully inspected and repaired” in Ireland and then continued its route to Cancun via Manchester.

“As safety is always our top priority, we have comprehensively investigated this incident and reviewed the procedures of liquids in the cockpit,” the spokesperson’s statement continued. “Our crews were reminded of a careful handling as well as to use appropriate containers for their water or coffee. We apologize for any inconveniences the diversion might have caused to our guests.”

Condor airlines has since “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 AAIB’s report concluded. “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.”

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