SpiceJet: Two Indian pilots grounded in the cockpit after their coffee break sparked safety concerns

(CNN) Indian low-cost airline SpiceJet has grounded two of its pilots after they allegedly consumed coffee and pastries in the cockpit – a snack break that could have gone horribly wrong if one of the hot drinks had spilled.

A photo showing an uncovered mug with the airline’s logo placed dangerously close to the cockpit controls sparked outrage in the aviation community in India and on the internet.

The pilots, whose faces were not visible in the picture, were also holding gujiyas – a sweet fried pastry typically eaten during the Hindu festival of Holi, which falls on March 8 this year.

A SpiceJet spokesman told CNN on Friday that both pilots have been delisted pending an investigation.

“SpiceJet has a strict policy (regarding the consumption of food in the cockpit) that is followed by all flight crew. Appropriate disciplinary action will be taken upon completion of the investigation,” the spokesman said.

Shakti Lumba, retired pilot and former operations manager of Indian Airline IndiGo said the pilots’ “feel good social media photo op” was “immature” and “undesirable” especially since they are responsible for the safety of the plane and its passengers.

“It was completely inexplicable behavior. All pilots are aware of the dangers of spilled liquids in the cockpit,” he told CNN, adding that most company rules and aviation regulations prohibit placing food and liquids on the central pedestal console.

Beneath this console are a multitude of electrical wires vital to controlling the aircraft – and spilling hot beverages on it can cause technical equipment to overheat or shut down the system.

CNN has contacted India’s Directorate-General for Civil Aviation (DGCA) for comment on the incident.

The low-cost airline has faced a series of incidents over the past year, prompting multiple investigations by the aviation authority.

Last May, a SpiceJet plane’s autopilot malfunctioned, causing severe turbulence that resulted in multiple injuries on board.

The regulator also ordered the airline’s operational flights to be halved for an eight-week period after it was involved in at least eight technical disruptions, CNN affiliate News 18 reported in July 2022.


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