Spilled Coffee Triggers Airplane Disaster

Heather Murphy-Raines

Travel on an airplane has become less attractive of late, hasn't it? Take your pick of plentiful detractors and the good ol' American minivan on hot asphalt with kids screaming in the back sounds better and better. For me, the idea of flying is now synonymous with root canals

Arrive hours early for a one-hour flight? Get stuck on the runway for hours without food or potty breaks? Get hassled by the TSA, which invades our privacy, our suitcases, and our body cavities? Now add patting down kids as a "game," and blizzards that make it impossible to escape the in-laws at the holidays. What fun.

The latest? This airline gaff won't give you the warm fuzzies either. The latest is a flight diverted to Canada because a silly @#$% pilot spilled his coffee on the instruments. Yes, Starbucks took out the plane. Better yet, it seems while mopping up the mess, they may have triggered an alert that they had lost communication and had been hijacked

Seriously. False hijack indicator triggered and plane diverted by a cuppa joe. Worse?

Wait for it...

The National Transportation Safety Board doesn't even think it merits a investigation.

Attention Pilots: Not Waterproof

The spillage occurred on United Airlines Flight 940,  headed from Chicago to Frankfurt, Germany.  An United Airlines spokesman said crew member's beverage spilled "during a period of light turbulence."  According to CNN, "after the pilot switched to a backup radio system, the plane briefly sent out a transponder signal indicating it had been hijacked."

There is controversy over how the hijacking transponder was turned on, but the end result was an emergency landing in Toronto.

To me, as a mother, this is just a basic common sense issue. My kids aren't allowed to eat over computers or drink hot beverages in our car. Why on earth would a pilot be allowed to drink coffee over an electronic board that's worth millions AND is crucial to the safety of hundreds of passengers who have been entrusted in his care?

Silly. Dangerous. Negligent.

According to the FAA, pilots are apparently allowed to have drinks in cockpit even though there is a rule forbidding pilots from an activity that could distract them during a "critical phase of flight."   According to FAA spokesman Les Dorr, drinking coffee may be included as a prohibited activity. CNN reports:

The agency's Certificate Management Office will investigate whether United Airlines has a policy prohibiting crew members from passing liquids over, or placing them on, the console, and whether they've communicated that policy to pilots. The FAA also will investigate whether the spilled liquid in fact caused the communications problem, or if there were other factors, Dorr said.

Hmmm...No surprise the FAA and TSA can seem to agree whether this is worthy of an investigation.

Maybe The New Logo Distracted Him??
My question, was it Starbuck's coffee cup with the new logo?  Heh! Yes, I sense a conspiracy. The pilot was so distracted by the ugly cup, it was bound to fall.

Seriously, all I do know is that perhaps moving away from the console of the cockpit before taking a sip might have been a wise move. Maybe they need a mom to nag them in the cockpit?

Either that, or the airlines need to invest in some waterproof consoles. Heck, why would terrorists need a box cutter or underwear bomb? Just a nice splash of coffee from your neighborhood terrorist, or in this case, your doofus pilot, can wreak as much havoc.

So are you planning to fly in the near future?  Or does that minivan look more tempting?

Images via ScoutsHonorKOBUS 2C/ /via Flickr and Starbucks

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