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Airbus has developed a removable cover for A350 integrated control panels, designed to protect vital systems from inadvertent liquid spills in the cockpit, after two incidents which preceded uncommanded engine shutdown.
The cover – which protects engine master levers, thumbwheels and rotary knobs – needs to be removed during critical flight phases, including take-off, approach and landing.
But outside of these, such as during the cruise, the cover must be fitted, according to a directive from the European Union Aviation Safety Agency.
Coffee spilled on A350 console caused catastrophic system failure
EASA issues AD mandating No Liquids Zone
Are there not less drastic Solutions??
The European Union Aviation Safety Agency (a/k/a EASA) takes pride in its ability to respond quickly. Its range of regulatory actions is not encumbered by the US’ Administrative Procedures Act time requirements. Further, its proposals do not appear to be subject to the cost/benefit analyses or alternative assessments of OMB (EO 12866 Regulatory Review).
Faced with a few incidents in which liquids spilled into the highly automated control console with dire consequences, EASA created a No Liquids zone. A quick simple reaction, but with further review might there be alternatives.
It should be noted that caffeine/coffee/tea/soda may increase the pilots’ processing capacity. Lack of adequate hydration has been found to influence the cognitive function, according to several scholarly articles. It is possible that excluding liquids may actually hurt human safety performance. As such, some safety value might have been assigned to allowing these liquids in the cockpit.
Pilots, particularly international crews, have their circadian rhythms subjected to strains. Caffeine is a relatively safe method to fight “jet lag.”
Ignoring the use of these liquids as a means of dealing with this phenomenon is myopic.
Might alternative analyses have improved the EASA solution?
One obvious choice might include a time-honored insert- a cup holder.
An immediate remedy could design a temporary cup holder insert.
It would provide the pilots with a simple solution to controlling the liquids. Its placement could be located away from any instruments which might be harmed by liquids.
A second prophylactic option would involve a more recent invention—containers which include a Spill-Proof Splash Resistant Lid. They typically are heavy enough to remain stable through turbulence and in a cup holder could provide a high level of security.
Fixating on the impacts which liquids on the A350 console and perhaps obsessing with the pilots’ apparent inability to keep liquids away from this central, critical computer system may have ignored some reasonable, immediately implementable solutions. Right, EASA?
“Spillages on electronic panels made engines shut down mid-flight
The mighty EU Aviation Safety Agency has issued a formal safety directive banning A350 airliner pilots from putting cups of coffee anywhere near sensitive cockpit electronics.
It appears that airline pilots simply can’t help themselves when it comes to getting their caffeine fixes. The EU Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) has formally repeated earlier pleas from Airbus not to pour coffee over delicate control panels.
The EASA ban, confirmed yesterday, takes the form of a “liquid prohibited zone” inside the A350’s cockpit and pragmatic “procedures to be followed in the case of inadvertent liquid spillage”.
If pilots don’t overcome their addiction to caffeine and stop spilling beverages over control panels, warned EASA, spillages could “lead to a dual engine [in flight shut down], possibly resulting in a forced landing with consequent damage to the aeroplane and injury to occupants”.
Aviation trade mag Flight Global reported that the cockpit coffee ban came about after two incidents where spilled liquids led to engines shutting down mid-flight “after inconsistent output” from control panels submerged under hot java. The magazine said: “Flight-recorder analysis indicated a high-pressure shut-off valve closure command.”
One incident involved American airline Delta, while another is speculated to have been South Korean carrier Asiana. In the latter incident, tea was spilled on the console. Despite numerous attempts – as Flight Global put it, “the powerplant would not remain operational for any length of time” – the pilots couldn’t get the dead engine running again and had to divert the flight.
The master engine switches in the A350’s cockpit (immediately below the throttles held in the left-hand of the pilot in the picture above) are connected, via computer, to each engine’s high-pressure fuel shut-off valve. Shorting the switch by pouring liquid over it appears to send a number of “engine on/engine off” commands in rapid succession.
Last year an A330 captain discovered, while over the middle of the Atlantic, that pouring hot coffee onto his aircraft’s radios causes them to melt. ®
Maybe taking time to consider win/win options might have found a safe, feasible option, EASA?
 Which can be waived in an emergency.
 Could hydration levels influence cognitive function?; Off Your Mental Game? You Could Be Mildly Dehydrated; Effect of Water Supplementation on Cognitive Performances and Mood among Male College Students in Cangzhou, China: Study Protocol of a Randomized Controlled Trial; Why Your Brain Needs Water, Water enhances mental function and is essential to survivalShare this article: