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February 06, 2020

Spillages on the flight deck  - reasons to be concerned.

Spillages on the flight deck – drinking and flying can be a dangerous mix.

Some recent high profile incidents on A350s have led to increasing concerns over liquid spillages on the flight deck.  This is not a new issue. Such events have occurred on Boeing aircraft in the past, namely on Air New Zealand B737 in 2007 and United Airlines B777 in 2011.


More recently, on the 6th Feb last year Condor Flight DE2116, an Airbus A330 from Frankfurt to Cancún, diverted to Shannon airport as a precautionary measure due to smoke in the cockpit after a liquid spillage.

What is different about the A350 incidents is that they resulted in un-commanded engine shutdowns which were unrecoverable and caused diversion - Flight Global.  Click here to read the article.  


Cabin crew are generally aware of the dangers of passing liquids over the centre console. Sometimes they are inadvertently encouraged to do so by flight deck crew. This has to stop.  Pilots should only receive liquids to the left of the Captain’s seat and to the right of the First Officer’s seat, and as an interim measure pilots could consider reinforcing this during crew briefings.


It is not unreasonable for bottles of water or cups containing liquids to be kept on the flight deck provided they are sealed/covered and or safely placed in their stowage/holder which is usually outboard of the pilot's seat. By following sensible SOPs we can avoid the imposition of what may at first glance appear to be childish and draconian new procedures. The alternative could lead to catastrophic consequences.

However, EASA have this week (Feb 5) provided the most up-to-date guidance on this issue for the A350 in the form of an Emergency Airworthiness Directive - click here 


This addresses these A350 occurrences by publication of advice ‘defining a liquid prohibited zone in the cockpit, and the procedures to be followed in the case of inadvertent liquid spillage on the centre pedestal’. It also reminds operators about the ‘standard practices for handling liquids in the cockpit to reduce the probability of hazards.’


We recommend that pilots and air crew be guided accordingly.


Safe flying.