Indian pilots grounded due to riot over dangerous coffee break


March 17, 2023 | 1:20 PM

Two pilots for Indian airline SpiceJet have been in trouble for balancing an uncovered cup of coffee precariously near the plane’s throttles after an image of the java-and-cake party in the cockpit went viral.

Appalled aviation experts noted that if the coffee had spilled, the aircraft’s controls could have been compromised.

“The central plinth is not a table. Even the slightest turbulence and coffee/spillage on the electronics will foul the systems. This is (a) CRIMINAL act,” tweeted Mohan Ranganathan, an aviation safety expert who shared the photo.

The faces of the captain and first officer are not depicted in the image, which shows the SpiceJet-branded paper cup on the console holding fried pastries called gujiyas.

The sweets are a staple during the Hindu festival of Holi, which took place on March 8.

Two pilots of India’s SpiceJet have been grounded after an image went viral of them talking during a dangerous coffee break – with a full cup perilously placed on the control panel.

The pilots apparently celebrated the holiday on a domestic flight from Delhi to the northeastern city of Guwahati while flying at 11,000 feet, the Times of India reported.

On Tuesday, India’s Directorate General of Civil Aviation asked the airline to identify the pilots and take disciplinary action against them.

“Both pilots have been removed from the list pending an investigation. SpiceJet has a strict policy on the consumption of food in the cockpit, which is adhered to by all flight crew,” an airline spokesman told the news outlet.

The airline said it “has a strict policy on the consumption of food in the cockpit, which is adhered to by all flight crew.”
Bloomberg via Getty Images

“Appropriate disciplinary action will be taken upon completion of the investigation,” the representative added.

Retired pilot Shakti Lumba, the former chief of operations for Indian airline IndiGo, told CNN that the pilots’ “feel-good social media photo-op” was “immature” and “undesirable.”

“It was totally inexplicable behaviour. All pilots are aware of the dangers of spilled liquids in the cockpit,” he said, adding that most corporate and airline regulations prohibit placing food and liquids in that area.

Under Indian aviation regulations, pilots are allowed to have food and drink in the cockpit, but under strict guidelines, including the need to have lids and place them on trays to prevent spills, the BBC reported.

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