How Airbus Reacted To The A350 Cockpit Coffee Problem

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Some of our readers may recall an article we wrote in January regarding spilled beverages being to blame for two Airbus A350 engine-shutdown incidents in January and November. Both led to diversions with one flight operated by Delta Air Lines flight while the other incident’s airline remains unidentified but was possibly an Asiana service. Airbus has now developed a solution to prevent the same unfortunate issues from taking place should liquid spill in the same area.

A350 cockpit
It’s expected that the new liquid-resistant integrated control panel will need to be fitted into all Airbus A350s. Photo: Airbus

The EASA Airworthiness Directive 2020-0090 states the following:

“This condition, if not corrected, could lead to a dual engine IFSD, possibly resulting in a forced landing with consequent damage to the aeroplane and injury to occupants.” 

The original incidents

The first recorded incident took place on November 9th, 2019, approximately one hour after tea was spilled. While the airline remains unidentified, an Asiana Airlines A350 flying from Seoul to Singapore diverted to Manila that same day due to engine issues, something Simple Flying had reported on.

Several months later, on January 21st, a Delta Air Lines A350-900 flying from Detroit to Seoul Incheon, Korea, experienced engine problems. This prompted a diversion just 15 minutes after a drink was spilled.

Delta A350
The most recent incident took place in January with a Delta Air Lines A350-900. Photo: Delta Air Lines

Temporary solutions

Weeks after the January 2020 incident, an interim directive from the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) defined a liquid-free zone within the cockpit to reduce the risk of liquid spilling into the risk-area.

Subsequently, in April, Airbus developed a cover for critical controls in the A350 cockpit, to protect them from liquid spillage. The EASA has instructed all A350 operators to install the new covers within 28 days.

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Asiana A350
The first recorded incident is suspected of having taken place in the cockpit of an Asiana A350. Photo: Tom Boon – Simple Flying

This is how that same EASA airworthiness directive describes Airbus’ solution to prevent liquid from getting into cockpit controls:

Airbus developed mod 116010,introducing a removable cover for the integrated control panels (ICP) and issued the SB to provide modification instructions. This cover allows to protect the ICP completely, including engine master levers, thumbwheels and rotary knobs.

A final fix

It’s been over half a year since the EASA took action by first declaring the ‘liquid-free zone.’ Now, FlightGlobal is reporting that Airbus has redesigned the vulnerable area – known as the integrated control panel (ICP).

The new ICP is liquid-resistant and designed to avoid the risk to engine systems from liquid-spills in the cockpit. These new ICPs are expected to be mandated by EASA.

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While somewhat of an inconvenience and an added cost, the replacement ICP will provide operators and their crew with added confidence. Photo: Chris Loh/Simple Flying

FlightGlobal is also reporting that EASA has proposed a directive that would require A350 operators to install the new panel within eight months.

What do you think of this whole ‘spilled beverage in the cockpit’ situation? Was it handled well? Was it a result of a lack of foresight, or is the blame squarely on pilots? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.

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