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A350 Pilots Banned From Drinking Coffee in Cockpits

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In a new safety precaution, the EU Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) has banned A350 airliner pilots from drinking coffee in the cockpits to reduce the risk of spilling liquids on sensitive cockpit electronics.

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The ban marks the EASA finally putting its foot down, after previous requests to Airbus pilots to keep their coffees and other liquids away from airplane control panels. Two incidents have occurred where liquids were spilled and led to engines shutting down mid-flight “after inconsistent output” from control panels.

The first incident involved the American airline Delta. The second incident is believed to have involved the South Korean carrier Asiana, where tea was spilled on the console and forced the pilots to divert the flight. Another incident occurred in a flight over the Atlantic last year, where an A330 captain found out that hot coffee can melt an aircraft’s radios after he spilled his own beverage.

The master engine switches in the A350’s cockpit are connected by computer to each engine’s high-pressure fuel shut-off valve. Pouring liquid over the switches will short them out, sending numerous “engine on/engine off” commands in rapid succession. According to EASA, this could “lead to a dual engine [in flight shut down], possibly resulting in a forced landing with consequent damage to the airplane and injury to occupants”.

This new safety measure makes an A305’s cockpit a “liquid prohibited zone.” Pragmatic “procedures to be followed in the case of inadvertent liquid spillage” will also be implemented.

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