During two recent flights, including a Delta Air Lines flight to Seoul, the engine on Airbus A350-900 shut down unexpectedly after drinks were spilled in the cockpit, according to a report from FlightGlobal.
Both flights diverted to a nearby airport, and no one was hurt in either incident.
Airbus declined to comment, but told Business Insider that safety is "a top priority in aviation."
Spilled drinks in the cockpit have been linked to two incidents in which an airplane's engine shut down in the middle of a flight, according to aviation publication FlightGlobal.
Both unexpected shutdowns were on the newest Airbus wide-body jet, the A350, and involved Rolls-Royce Trent XWB engines.
One of the shutdowns was on a Delta Air Lines flight from Detroit to Seoul, South Korea, on January 21. The flight was above northern Canada when the engine turned off. The flight diverted to Fairbanks, Alaska and was eventually canceled, according to data from FlightRadar24.
According to FlightGlobal, a drink was spilled in the cockpit about 15 minutes before the engine shut itself down. The liquid ended up on the center pedestal between the two pilots, near a panel which is used to start and control engine functions.
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After the right-hand engine shut down, pilots tried, unsuccessfully, to restart it. That was when they decided to divert to Alaska.
FlightGlobal reported that an analysis of the flight-data recorder, or black box, showed "the electronic engine control had commanded closure of a high-pressure shut-off valve after inconsistent output from the integrated control panel."
The other incident occurred on November 9, 2019, about an hour after a cup of tea spilled on the same pedestal of an A350-900. The operating airline was not identified, but appears to have been Asiana, a South Korean airline.
Similarly to the later incident, the right-side engine shutdown and could not be restarted successfully. The flight-data recorder showed a similar high-pressure shut off valve closure.
According to FlightGlobal, the control panels on both aircraft were replaced, and Airbus is investigating the shutdowns while warning airline customers to avoid spills.
Airbus declined to comment to Business Insider on the specific instances, but said that it was in "regular dialogue with all our customers keeping them abreast on latest operational topics."
"Safety is a top priority in aviation, and this constant dialogue is a strong contributor to the excellent safety track record we see today in aviation," a spokesperson added.
Several eagle-eyed aviation enthusiasts noted that although the A350 features cupholders in the cockpit, they're smaller than are found on other airplanes.
Although spills can be messy or inconvenient, the possibility of a cup of coffee causing a plane's engine to shut down during a flight is alarming.
Marc Rochet, the president of French Bee, a Paris-based budget airline with an all-A350 fleet, told Business Insider that cabin and cockpit crews are specifically trained on how to handle liquids near controls to avoid a similar incident on their A350s.
"We made a wide instruction to our crew many months ago because of the central engine controls," Rochet said. "The cabin crew cannot give any beverage to a cockpit crew member in the central part of the cockpit. They have to pass it around on the side.
"Years ago, the controls were fully mechanical. If you spilled water, you would just wait for it to dry, it would be fine. Now it's all computers, and liquid and computers do not fit."
A spokesperson for Delta said the airline was reviewing the incident. Asiana did not immediately return a request for comment.
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