A Condor flight to Mexico had to reverse the Atlantic after a spilled coffee melted one of its radios.
CFG116, an eleven-hour flight between Frankfurt and Cancun, was interrupted after the captain threw his cup over himself and the radio panel on the center console of his Airbus A330. The spill caused an "electric fire smell", followed by smoke.
Although pilots were instructed in the Airbus flight manual to load drinks into designated cup holders that are not near the center console, the captain placed his drink on his fold-out tray table while he was filling out the paperwork. Predictably, he threw it over.
After an uneventful takeoff from Germany and a cruise through British and Irish airspace towards the Atlantic, the cabin crew served hot drinks to the pilots, which was "normal for this operator and route," according to the Air Accident Investigation Branch (AAIB) report. When the worst happened, "most of the liquid fell on the commander's lap," and a "small amount" ran on the radio.
ACP1 is the captain's radio. ACP2 is the first officer. The white fluffy thing is the seat cover of the captain (picture: Air Accidents Investigation Branch)
The left radio decided that it did not like to be soaked in coffee and promptly had an "immediate fault" and all its lights were lit. The crew could not isolate it electrically and dried the radio as best they could. Nevertheless, it was after about 40 minutes "very hot and failed and there was an electric fire smell in the cockpit."
This would have been annoying in itself; A330s have three radios in the cockpit to make sure there is always a backup. Unfortunately, the captain's coffee had leaked to the first officer's radio. Twenty minutes later, this radio became "hot enough to melt one of its buttons" and died as well, while the first one began to emit smoke.
At this time (56 ° 03 ° N 031 ° 11 ° W – more or less equidistant between Ireland and Canada) the captain said enough, declared a May day and turned to the nearest safe airport, Shannon in Western Ireland, around. According to the crew's account on the Aviation Safety Network website, fuel had to be dropped to be below the maximum landing weight.
"During the detour, the flight crew alternately used additional oxygen, always providing one pilot with oxygen," said the AAIB.
It added: "The size of the cups used by this operator on this route made it more difficult to put cups in and out of the cup holder than larger cups that have a larger area at the top of the cup holder In general, despite the policy of using the drink holder discouraged. "
Condor, the continental brand of British Thomas Cook, has since signed a contract for the supply of coffee cup lids and ordered the cabin crew to assemble them before releasing the pilots with hot drinks. ®