About that “open container law” for Airbus aircraft . . .

. . . it looks like I wasn’t far wrong!

Last week I wrote about electrical issues with three different Airbus aircraft after liquids were spilled on control panels in the cockpit, including uncommanded engine shutdowns.  I asked whether an “open container law” might be needed for Airbus cockpits.

What’s the old saying about “There’s many a true word spoken in jest”?  Flight Global reports:

Airbus A350 operators have been ordered to define a “liquid prohibited” zone in the cockpit, after two incidents in which beverage spillages on the centre pedestal led to in-flight shutdown of a Rolls-Royce Trent XWB engine.

. . .

In an emergency directive the European Union Aviation Safety Agency has warned that inadvertent spillage on the engine-start panel or electronic centralised aircraft monitor panel – both located on the pedestal – could potentially result in a dual engine shutdown.

Preliminary technical investigation, it says, indicates “abnormal operation” of components in the panels resulting from the spillages. Uncommanded shutdown followed “some time” after the spillage and subsequent engine relight attempts were not successful.

Airbus has published a temporary revision to the aircraft’s flight manual, dated 4 February, defining a “liquid prohibited zone” for the cockpit and the procedures to be followed in case of a pedestal spillage.

There’s more at the link.

What next?  Cup-holders in the cockpit, carefully positioned to keep drinks away from vulnerable consoles?  Perhaps the aircraft industry might learn from vehicle manufacturers, and festoon their cockpits with cup-holders in all directions!  How about a robotic “spill control steward[ess]” who’ll quickly mop up the mess when pilots have an oopsie?  With all the automation already in aircraft cockpits, there’s got to be room for that . . .



  1. Can't understand all the fuss, I mean, the fuel economy must improve when the engines are off….of course you'd need to turn them on again when you want to land.

  2. Old memory comes back – if those panels aren't sealed, how do they prevent moisture buildup inside the panels or pedestal? Condensate from warm, wet air can otherwise accumulate and short things out, over time. Byproduct of this is a sealed surface that water can't leak into, either beverage or cleaning products.

  3. I remember seeing a movie about an airplane crash investigation that the cause of the crash was..

    Wait for it…

    Wait for it…

    A cup of coffee, spilled on the center control section.

    Based (loosely) on actual events, from the early days of jet airliners.

    "Fate is the Hunter." 1964.

    At least Boeing doesn't have, as far as we know, moisture problems.

    Way to go, Airbus, for not fixing a problem known in… the early 1960's.

    And, if I remember, a continuing problem from when it first was noticed on Airbus aircraft back in the 1980's.

    Boeing may suck the big one right now, but most of their stuff, except for the most recent, is still far and away a better, safer product. Funny, though, that when Boeing tries to go 'Airbus' in overly controlling computer controllers, they have the same problems that Airbus has had, since, oh, the first days of their flight control computers.

    Weeee… History repeats itself, over and over again. Parallel evolution of stupidity.

  4. Beans, Yeah I immediately thought of "Fate is the Hunter" as well. Usually, in the aircraft industry, when a design problem is identified there are no more failures of the same kind. Not sure what's going on now. It seems as though the Silicon Valley mindset of push the product out the door now, patch later has infected the aircraft industry, as well as a loss of memory of past events.

  5. Over on the Airplane Geeks podcast, they mentioned that apparently Airbus does have cup holders in the cockpit, they're just not large enough to hold American-sized cups of coffee. At least that's the current excuse.

  6. It's even MOAR fun when it's acidic… like pineapple juice… no, don't ask… And yes, there WERE cup holders that were well out of the way, but that was where the $%*() hung his headset.

  7. Circle back to the last post on the topic, boys.
    A couple of us noted Fate Is the Hunter last week.

    So clearly, the Euro-Frog engineers aren't big movie fans.

    Their center console was apparently also designed by Chauchat.

    But being mostly French, they shouldn't have too much trouble designing a console condom.

  8. I instituted an "open container" restriction in a control-room I managed some decades ago, but could not politically block people entirely from bringing coffee or having water.

    It took the form of a line marked on the floor beyond which liquid or food could not be taken, and a table added near the entry door so that there was a designated place to put it down safely.

    Some months after this was in place, I entered the room, took a big swig of my coffee, and then someone said something really funny. When I chortled, I choked, and I ended up involuntarily spewing my coffee, and did a fine job of it. There was not one module of control panel that did not need to be cleaned!

    Fortunately the slider controls had been ordered with the "spill proof" option, so we did not end up with any liquid inside equipment, and we had plenty of tissues and towels handy to clean-up fast.

  9. Perhaps they should consider adding a spray can of electrical contact cleaner to the cockpit equipment list. A quick blast into the switch area might have saved them from having to divert the aircraft. Some of them are safe for energized equipment use. A ten dollar can vs mucho$? It's probably what the repair crew used to fix the problem on the ground.

  10. Speaking from 31 years at Northwest Airlines and Delta (including 25 years flying the A320 Airbus-21 of them as Captain),drinks were never passed over the center console. Either they were passed over the outside shoulder or they were passed on the inside, making certain that the fluid never was above the console. The former was always preferred. Cabin crew were taught this early in their training.
    I can't speak about the A350, but the 320 had very nicely sized cup/can holders molded into the trim of the sliding windows. I have no idea why anyone would be this careless.

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