Indian pilots grounded after photos show open coffee cup placed on instrument console

Pilots must follow strict rules, including using lids on beverage containers

SpiceJet pilots dangerously placed a coffee cup and snack on the centre console of the cockpit when the plane was cruising at 37,000 feet on March 8. Photo: Boeing
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An Indian airline grounded two pilots after they reportedly placed open coffee cups and sweets on the instrument console while flying a commercial plane.

The mid-flight snack was said to have been consumed by the pilots of a SpiceJet flight from New Delhi to Guwahati in Assam state on March 8, the day of Holi, the Indian festival of colours.

The plane was cruising at 37,000 feet.

“Both pilots have been off-rostered pending an inquiry,” a SpiceJet representative told The National. "SpiceJet has a strict policy for consumption of food inside the cockpit which is adhered to by all flight crew."

Disciplinary action will be taken upon completion of an investigation, the official said.

A picture shared on social media showed a paper coffee cup and gujiyas, an Indian sweet traditionally eaten on Holi, placed dangerously on the centre console of the cockpit.

This triggered condemnation and prompted India’s aviation regulator to issue a warning to the airline.

Consumption of food and beverages is regulated inside the cockpit and pilots must follow strict rules, including using lids on beverage containers to avoid spillage on delicate consoles or avoiding placing food and drink items unattended on instrument panels.

India's aviation regulatory body, Directorate General of Civil Aviation, has sought details from the carrier, asking it to identify crew members and take action.

A former pilot and aviation expert called it a “criminal act” and a “dangerous habit”.

“The central pedestal is not a table. Even the slightest turbulence and coffee will spill on to the electronics, it will foul the systems. This is a criminal act,” said Mohan Ranganathan, an aviation expert who had first shared the image on Twitter.

Updated: March 17, 2023, 11:00 AM