I suppose it’s cheaper than fixing the actual console . . .

Back in January I reported on two incidents involving Airbus A350 airliners, where pilots’ beverages had been spilled onto the center console, resulting in serious technical problems.  This led to an emergency order defining a “liquid free zone” in the cockpit until further measures could be developed.

Now Airbus has announced a more permanent solution (you should pardon the expression).

Airbus has developed a removable cover for A350 integrated control panels, designed to protect vital systems from inadvertent liquid spills in the cockpit, after two incidents which preceded uncommanded engine shutdown.

The cover – which protects engine master levers, thumbwheels and rotary knobs – needs to be removed during critical flight phases, including take-off, approach and landing.

But outside of these, such as during the cruise, the cover must be fitted, according to a directive from the European Union Aviation Safety Agency.

There’s more at the link.

I suppose, as a temporary, short-term fix, it may work:  but why not seal the console and its instruments properly during the manufacturing process?  Shouldn’t that have been done in the first place?  Surely that would be the optimal solution to the problem?  Or am I asking too much of aviation engineers and technicians?



  1. The likely reason is that electronic components inside the console are cooled by an exhaust fan sucking cooler cockpit air into the console. To seal the console would cook the electronics. You can't just change the direction of the exhaust fan, as the air source in that area would be hot, not cold.

  2. Had it been designed right in the first place, the unit cost of the aircraft would have been hundreds of dollars higher, which is completely unacceptable. Better to spend far more money later trying to fix things.
    As for components needing cooling… again, it could have been designed right in the first place, with cooling-air intakes less vulnerable – but why would anything in the console have significant power dissipation, anyway? (But then I've often wondered why starships would have big honkin' power conduits routed through the panels on the bridge, other than to enable dramatic showers of sparks in battle.)

  3. Sealing things against water spills is hard if it isn't designed for it from the start. It would require redesign of the panel, recertification, and possible retraining the pilots. Much time and money.

  4. They've invented the translucent plastic keyboard cover! For planes!

    1985 called. They want their technology back.

  5. Have most of us learned not to partake of coffee, beer, mixed drinks or any other liquids over or adjacent to our keyboards and laptops? Can't an educated pilot understand this simple concept while driving a muli-million machine carrying a couple hundred living souls? Sounds like a "smoking at the fuel depot" problem to me. Am I missing something here? Fire the inbibing pilot — charge him/her — fine him/her — charge him/her for damages caused — prosecute him/her for injuries and/or loss of life. There, problem solved — that and build a better airplane.

  6. They water proof military equipment with sensitive electronics all the time and manage to maintain cool enough interior environments at the same time. It would be no problem to source the cooling air from a spot not exposed to foreign contaminants.

    Sadly, this is an example of spec'ing an electronics package to be made at the cheapest possible price regardless of the wisdom of doing so. Same type of problem plagues the 737MAX where they did not want to 'spend the money' to create a new flight management software package and as a result created a potential death trap that cost the lives of hundreds of people.

  7. John Ray – what you're missing is that your solution isn't fixing "smoking at the fuel depot", it's roughly "fire all commercial truckers for ever eating or drinking in the cab."

    Note that pilots are locked into the cockpit ever since 9/11, to the tune of having to call the cabin crew and negotiate coordination when they want to go to the loo. They don't have the option to get up and go somewhere else to eat and drink, and there's no spare room in the cockpit – it's designed for them to always be at their seats, all day long, when they're not hustling from one gate to another to get back in their seats.

    All pilots are aware of the problem. Almost all pilots are very good at working around it – note the frequency of flights all over the world, and the relative rarity of these incidents. Airplane manufacturers are aware of the problem; it's been a known issue since airplanes existed. As long as they continue to not design a fix to the problem, it will continue to be so, and we'll keep getting told that it's the pilot's fault that the poor sucker locked in a space the size of a phone booth for 12 hours a day, breathing dry bleed air, just wanted a drink.

  8. Another option would be to use a spill-resistant unit. Something like a CamelBak pack. Just make sure changing ambient pressure doesn't do weird things…

  9. On a Wing and a Whim@9:26. I concede your point. I didn't think it through the point to where the pilot is shoehorned and virtually imprisoned in a tiny box with blinking lights, buttons, levers, switches and squaking speakers surrounding him/her (with no way out). I did miss something there, so I retract.

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