The incident occurred on flight DE2116 by German airline Condor. According to the report, disaster struck moments after crew members on the flight, including the flight commander, were served coffee without lids.
The cup of coffee ultimately spilled onto the commander’s lap and audio control panel (ACP) after the steaming liquid was placed on a tray table. The incident later caused the ACPs on the commander and co-pilot’s side to short-circuit.
“During the failures, the ACPs became very hot and produced an electrical burning smell and smoke,” the report explains. In fact, one of the buttons on the co-pilot’s panel started to melt during the incident.
“The commander decided to divert to Shannon, Republic of Ireland. The failure of two ACPs caused significant communication difficulty for the flight crew. The operator has taken safety action to reduce the chance of spillage,” the report explains.
However, the report notes that the fumes did not “result in injuries to anyone on board.” A total of 326 passengers and 11 crew members were on the flight.
In a statement to USA Today, Magdalena Hauser, a spokesperson for Condor, noted that the flight eventually “continued via Manchester” to its final destination “after the aircraft was fully inspected and repaired” by engineers. An analysis revealed that the spilled coffee caused electrical burning in the first control panel. However, it’s not entirely clear why the co-pilot’s control panel also malfunctioned.
Since the incident, the airline has established a new procedure: cabin crew members are required to use cup lids.
"As safety is always our top priority, we have comprehensively investigated this incident and reviewed the procedures of liquids in the cockpit," Hauser said, USA Today reported. "Our crews were reminded of a careful handling as well as to use appropriate containers for their water or coffee. We apologize for any inconveniences the diversion might have caused to our guests."
The Air Accidents Investigation Branch, a UK government entity, is responsible for investigating civil aircraft accidents within the UK and its overseas territories.