- A photo shared on social media showed an uncovered cup of coffee perched on a plane’s cockpit controls.
- The photo outraged India’s aviation community, with one retired pilot calling it “inexplicable” behavior.
- Indian airline SpiceJet grounded the two pilots, adding that disciplinary action would follow.
Two pilots in India have been grounded following the circulation of a photo that showed them drinking coffee and eating pastries mid-flight in the cockpit of a SpiceJet plane, according to reports.
The photo, which was shared widely on social media, does not show the pilots’ faces. It does, however, show gujiyas, a fried dessert pastry that is typically eaten during the Hindu festival of Holi, and a dangerously placed cup of coffee.
The coffee, which has no lid and shows the Indian budget airline SpiceJet’s logo, is perched on the plane’s thrust lever controls in the photo, causing outrage in the aviation community.
—Mohan Ranganathan (@Mohan_Rngnathan) March 14, 2023
Mohan Ranganathan, an aviation-safety expert who initially shared the photo, said on Twitter: “The Central pedestal is not a table. Even the slightest turbulence and coffee/ spills on to the electronics, it will foul the systems. This is s CRIMINAL act.”
A retired pilot and former head of operations for an Indian airline, Shakti Lumba, told CNN that the “feel-good” photo opp was “totally inexplicable” behavior. “All pilots are aware of the dangers of spilled liquids in the cockpit,” he said, per the media outlet.
SpiceJet did not respond to Insider’s request for comment, but the airline told The Hindu that it is trying to learn more details about the incident.
A spokesperson for SpiceJet said in a statement provided to The Times of India that both pilots have been taken off their roster pending an investigation.
“SpiceJet has a strict policy for consumption of food inside the cockpit which is adhered to by all flight crew,” the spokesperson said, adding that disciplinary action would be taken after the investigation had concluded.
The Directorate General of Civil Aviation, India’s regulatory body that oversees aviation safety, is also looking into the incident, The Hindu reported.
Indian aviation rules allow pilots to have food and drink in the cockpit but under strict guidelines, per BBC News. For example, cups need to have lids to prevent potentially catastrophic spillages.
According to CNN, spilling a hot drink on the central pedestal could cause technical equipment to overheat or, worse, trigger the entire system to shut down.