Grounds for suspension: pilots posted cockpit picture showing coffee cup balancing on brakes

SpiceJet planes - FotoFlirt /Alamy
SpiceJet planes - FotoFlirt /Alamy

Two Indian pilots have been suspended after they posted an in-flight cockpit photograph showing an open coffee cup balancing on the controls of an airliner.

The incident reportedly took place on a SpiceJet flight from Delhi to the north-eastern city of Guwahati earlier in March while the aircraft was cruising at an altitude of 37,000 feet.

In the picture, the open cup of coffee can be seen perched on the fuel cut-off lever, close to other vital controls including the throttles.

It is believed the pilots took the picture to show them enjoying samosas and coffee to celebrate the Hindu festival of Holi.

But when they posted it online it sparked an immediate backlash from colleagues.

Cockpit coffee picture - Twitter
Cockpit coffee picture - Twitter

A senior pilot at another Indian airline told The Daily Telegraph that the celebration posed a serious safety risk.

“If the coffee spilled and fell on the fire panel below it would have triggered a short circuit and loss of communication control,” she said. “It could have proved fatal. It is a shocking incident.”

After the snap came to light, India’s Directorate General of Civil Aviation demanded the airline identify the crew members and take immediate action against them.

“Both pilots have been off-rostered pending an inquiry. Appropriate disciplinary action will be taken upon completion of the investigation,” a SpiceJet spokesman said.

Allowed food and beverages

Indian aviation rules allow pilots and crew to have food and beverages inside the cockpit but under strict guidelines.

In August 2022 an Air India flight between Jaipur and Mumbai with 100 passengers onboard overshot its destination after both pilots fell asleep in the cockpit.

By the time they were woken up by anxious Mumbai air traffic controllers the plane had covered hundreds of miles and was about halfway to Goa.