Spilling a drink in the cockpit of an Airbus A350 might be a quick and easy way to have your flight diverted ,or returned to its origin, after two separate spillage incidents lead to un-commanded engine shut downs.

Airbus, Rolls-Royce and Leonardo are in the process of investigating two incidents that occurred in November 2019 and January 2020, that involve a Delta Air Lines A350 and an aircraft from an undisclosed airline.

FlightGlobal reports that a Delta Air Lines A350-900, on its way to Seoul, diverted to Fairbanks on the 21st of January, after its right hand Rolls-Royce Trent XWB-84 engine shut down. Attempts were made to restart the engine, however they were unsuccessful.

An investigation found that 15 minutes prior to the shut down, a drink was spilled on the centre pedestal where the engine start controls and electronic centralised aircraft monitor functions (ECAM) are located.

Drink Spills Possibly Lead to A350 Engine Shutdowns
Airbus A350 Centre Pedestal

System data showed that the electronic engine control was responsible for the closure of a high-pressure shut-off valve, after conflicting information was outputted by the integrated control panel.

The other incident involved tea being spilled on the centre pedestal, before the right-hand Rolls-Royce Trent XWB engine shut down. Although the airline hasn’t been identified, FlightGlobal reports that an Asiana Airlines Airbus A350-900 diverted to Manila on the 9th of November 2019 after encountering engine issues.

Engine restarts were attempted, however the engine remained unresponsive until after the aircraft had touched down; where it was able to be powered on and operated. Just like the Delta incident, system data showed an un-commanded closure of a high-pressure shut-off valve.

Since the occurrence of these two incidents, the integrated control panel and electronic engine controls on the incident aircraft have been replaced. The affected systems are now being assessed to determine the cause and develop a fix.

Although the shut downs came after the drinks were spilled, the root cause is yet to be determined and no official guidelines have been presented by aviation safety authorities.

Airbus held a discussion with A350 operators on the 30th of January, which supposedly included information on the safe handling and transfer of beverages in the cockpit.

What are your thoughts on this finding?