No use crying over spilt coffee: Airbus redesigns A350 cockpit

written by Hannah Dowling | September 7, 2020
Cockpit of an Airbus A350 (Source: Airbus)

Airbus has officially overhauled its A350 cockpit control panel, following earlier reports of engine failure caused by the aircrew’s spilt beverages.

The planemaker has developed a new integrated liquid-resistant control panel within its A350 aircraft, which will protect the engine systems from damage due to accidental drink spills.

This follows two incidents in the last eight months in which A350-900s were forced to divert due to single engine shutdowns, caused by beverages being spilt on the flat centre console of the cockpit.

The new liquid-resistant panel still needs to be mandated by the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA), however it is expected the agency will propose a new airworthiness directive shortly, which will see A350-900 and -1000 operators made to install the new panels within eight months.

The centre console is home to the engine-start and electronic centralised aircraft monitoring systems, and had reportedly been previously used as a make-shift coffee table by aircrew, thanks to the impractically small cup holders that are provided inside the cockpit.

Following the two instances of engine failure at the hands of spilled coffee, the EASA released an airworthiness directive that banned liquids in the cockpit near the centre console.

At that time, Airbus was made to provide an interim fix for the issue, which led to the introduction of a removable cover for the centre console panel, which provided protection over the engine master controls, rotary knobs and thumbwheels. 

The cover was to be removed during critical flight phases, but installed at all other times.

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The planemaker also introduced standard procedures to be followed in the event of liquid spillage onto the console.

6 Comments

  • Brian Goodman

    says:

    How about making the cup holders bigger? Problem solved.

  • OVTraveller

    says:

    There simply is not a way to circumvent highly trained fools fooling with their coffees

  • Geoff

    says:

    I guess no-one at Airbus ever saw the 1964 movie ‘Fate is the Hunter’ where a spilt cup of coffee was a major factor in the crash. Although other factors played a role, that spilled coffee was the reason for engine shutdown.

  • George B

    says:

    I remember a movie made in the 60s I think called Fate is the Hunter. I think starring Rod Taylor.
    Basically a “air crash investigation” type movie where an experimental airliner crashes. They perform a Re-enactment with the surviving crew using another aircraft and find a spilled coffee on the control console causes the crash ( if my memory serves me correctly)
    Prophetic? Maybe airbus designers should watch some old movies!

  • William Arons

    says:

    Watch the drinks

  • William Arons

    says:

    Watch out plastic cups

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