Pilots suspended after cockpit coffee photo goes viral

A photograph from the cockpit of an Indian airliner, Spicejet, where a cup of coffee was placed on the dashboard, was shared on social networks and quickly went viral. Aviation experts were appalled.

 Pilots in the cockpit of an airplane (illustrative) (photo credit: PEXELS)
Pilots in the cockpit of an airplane (illustrative)
(photo credit: PEXELS)

Two pilots of the Indian budget air carrier, Spicejet, were suspended after a photo of a full cup of coffee they placed on the cockpit controls and rudders went viral. Even if only a small amount of liquid spills, it can potentially critically affect the aircraft's systems.

The incident happened while Hindus across India were celebrating Holi, also known as the "Festival of Colors." According to the photo, it seemed that the pilots participated in the celebration and indulged in the cockpit with Gujiya cookies, a traditional dessert that is usually eaten during the holiday.

Next to the Gujiya was a disposable cup full of coffee. It was placed on the control board, on the March 8 flight from New Delhi to the city of Guwahati. The photo was shared on social media, and quickly went viral - for all the wrong reasons, mainly due to angry reactions from pilots and aviation safety professionals around the world.

Hot drinks must be used in closed containers

airplane cockpit 370 (credit:  REUTERS/Guillermo Granja)airplane cockpit 370 (credit: REUTERS/Guillermo Granja)

The Times of India, which reported the case, points out that many airlines have strict rules regarding how hot drinks are consumed in the cockpit, because of the same risk inherent in liquids that may spill on the flight systems. For example, in many companies, the pilots must drink only from sealed containers and avoid holding the container over the various controls.

Following the publication of the photograph, the airline Spicejet announced that it had verified the identity of the pilots involved in the incident and they were grounded until the end of the investigation. "Spicejet has a strict policy regarding the consumption of food in the cockpit, and all flight crews adhere to it. Upon completion of the investigation, appropriate disciplinary measures will be taken," the company said in a statement to the media. In addition, the head of the Civil Aviation Authority of India is also investigating the incident.