A photo of a coffee cup delicately perched on a start lever inside a cockpit, purportedly onboard a SpiceJet aircraft, which was widely circulated on social media on Tuesday, raised eyebrows over the allegedly reckless behaviour of the airline’s pilots that could endanger the safety of the plane and all onboard, and led to calls for strict action against them.
The airline said in response to a query from The Hindu that it was trying to ascertain the details related to the purported incident, following which it would take disciplinary action.
“It is not clear from the post when was the photograph taken, whether it is recent or old, the sector being operated or the crew or even the aircraft in question. We are trying to ascertain these details,” the airline said in a statement.
The photograph in question showed an uncovered cup with the airline’s branding and carrying the name SpiceJet placed on a start lever on the central control panel when the aircraft, destined for Guwahati, is in cruise mode at the height of 37,000 feet. Many deduced that aircraft was the older Boeing 737 Next Generation (NG) based on the maximum speed displayed and the paint peeling off from the control panel. Only Air India Express and SpiceJet have Boeing 737 NGs in their fleet.
“Even the slightest turbulence and coffee spills on to the electronics, it will foul the systems. This is a criminal act,” wrote aviation safety expert Mohan Ranganathan, who first shared the picture on Twitter. He told The Hindu that he had received it from a “pilot friend”.
If there is a sudden movement, the liquid would spill on the engine and auxillary power unit fire fighting system, and disable them, and in the worst case, even hamper the communication system, a pilot pointed out.
“We are looking into the matter. Information has been sought from the concerned airline,” a senior Director General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) official told The Hindu on condition of anonymity.
While food and beverages are allowed inside the cockpit, airlines follow a strict standard operating procedure on how they are carried. The cup must have a lid, and the cabin crew should hold the cup in their hands instead of carrying it on a tray to avoid spillage in case of turbulence. The cup also has to be handed over to the pilots from the sides, and not from the centre of the cockpit, lest it damage the control panel.
Moreover, photography inside the cockpit is prohibited by the DGCA.
Interestingly, while Airbus aircraft have a tray table for pilots, Boeing planes don’t have one, and pilots have to keep food and beverages on their laps, a pilot explained.