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Eating and drinking in the cockpit
Flying - General
Written by Capt Lim   
Monday, 09 September 2013 01:18

United Airlines Boeing 777
 
Hi Captain

I understand there are protocols in place at most airlines regarding the dining of the flight crew. I.e the crew cannot choose the same meal just in case there is a problem with an element of the food which could incapacitate a pilot. If both pilots eat the chicken for example and it is contaminated or undercooked, then this could potentially put the flight at risk as both pilots may become ill.

But what about food and drink actually consumed at the flight deck? I know that most pilots eat at the flight deck. The cabin crew will bring the meal up to the front. Is there anything in place regarding spilling drinks/food into the controls?

What if a drink was spilled accidentally into the FMC/radio stack or thrust levers? Surely a spilled drink could cause electrical system failures? Certainly in a fly-by-wire aircraft such as my beloved 777 where everything is controlled electrically with no pulleys or levers?

Thanks

Andy (Perth - Western Australia)

Hi Andy,

There is a standard airline procedure for serving crew in the cockpit whereby flight attendants are not to serve drinks over the centre panel. This is precisely to avoid spillage of beverages onto where all the avionics and switches are located. Hence all drinks must be served from the left or right side of the pilots.

It actually happened on a United Airlines flight from Chicago to Frankfurt in Germany as reported on 4 January 2011. Spilled coffee on the communication panel accidently triggered a hijacking alert which caused the plane to make an unscheduled landing at Toronto in Canada. The Boeing 777 was carrying 241 passengers and 14 crew members.

FAA investigation found the crew had “inadvertently squawked a 7500 code after spilling coffee on the aircraft's radio equipment, which interfered with the communications equipment."

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