Spilled Coffee Caused United Plane To Divert

Posted Jan 5th 2011 12:37 PMUpdated Jan 6th 2011 12:14 PM


The communications system malfunction that caused a United Airlines flight from Chicago to Frankfurt to divert to Toronto late Monday was caused by a pilot spilling coffee.

Reacting to the spill, the pilot changed the transponder code, and while turning the dial the Boeing 777 sent out a radio message indicating a hijacking, according to Canadian transportation authorities.

The crew was able to fix the faulty message, but the captain of Flight 940 decided to land the plane rather than fly across the Atlantic Ocean with a potential communications issue.

"During a period of light turbulence, a cockpit crew member's beverage spilled, causing issues with the airplane's communications equipment," United spokesman Rahsaan Johnson tells AOL Travel News.

"The plane never lost contact with air traffic control and followed standard operating procedures, landing safely in Toronto where we could begin to reaccommodate our customers," Johnson says.

The plane, with 241 passengers and 14 crew onboard, landed without incident at Toronto's Pearson International Airport.

The passengers were flown back to Chicago and housed in hotel rooms overnight. An additional flight has been added to fly them to Frankfurt on Tuesday, Johnson says.

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Why couldn't they just fly them from Toronto??

January 05 2011 at 10:25 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Thank God it wasn't US AIRWAYS. They would have never paid for the hotel nor offered an additional flight. All they do is kick you to the curb and shrug their shoulders, even when it's their fault!!

January 05 2011 at 8:20 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

WOW___How nice to see you people are all perfect and none of you ever had something you were drinking spill. Read the news article above FULLY again. The aircraft hit "air turbulance"
and the cup spilled.

January 05 2011 at 6:54 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to sgentilejr's comment

Not while I was flying an aircraft. He should not have had any beverage without a lid in the cockpit. Of course there is always the possibility of turbulence, all the more reason to take proper care of any liquids around the instrument panel....

January 05 2011 at 8:05 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I saw this movie. it was very good. Fate is the Hunter with Glen Ford

January 05 2011 at 6:51 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Glenn Ford starred in that movie!

January 05 2011 at 6:30 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Joseph Papierz Jr

It was an accidental spill for Pete's sake. Who hasn't spilled a cup of their beverage at some time or other. The air crew weren't shaking bottles of carbonated drinks and squirting each other. The pilot recognized the problem immediately and took the proper action to avoid a tragedy. Some people may have been inconvenienced but the pilot did the safe thing in landing the aircraft to get the communications system checked and straightened out. He does not deserve any disciplinary action He is a safe pilot. Some of the comments called for everything up to and including firing him but how many of you people still drink and eat while driving your car? How many of you still use your cell phone while driving? Be honest.

January 05 2011 at 6:28 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Fate is the Hunter.

January 05 2011 at 6:09 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

US pilots can spend up to 10 hours sitting in that cockpit with up to a 16 hour duty day. Often our turns between flights are 25 minutes which gives us just the bare essential time to get the aircraft ready for the next flight. Sometimes we don't even have time to get out of the cockpit to grab some lousy airport food and something to drink. Now you want to deprive us of having the coffee that's keeping us awake because regulations only require an 8 hour rest period between showing up the next day?? By the time the hotel van picks us up, we grab some food, get a quick shower, iron our uniform, and give ourselves enough time to grab a quick breakfast, shave, and shower the next day we're looking at 5 hours of sleep at best.

Would you like to ban the water bottle I often have sitting in the cup holder as well since I don't drink coffee? I know the general public wants their pilots to be gods and flawless, but on occasion we do make mistakes. If the worst case scenario is a little spilled liquid on avionics and a diversion that inconveniences 100 people I'd say it's not a big deal. We're trained professionals, not slaves for the general public to treat as trained monkeys.

Lauren- Have you noticed the flight attendants anytime within the past 30 years? Most are 40+ year old mothers earning a living. They're not some trampy 20 year old ditz that people like to think run around with pilots.

Judy- First of all it was United. Secondly, I'm sure no other airline is capable of one of their pilots spilling coffee. Get for real.

January 05 2011 at 6:08 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to greg's comment

Great Post Greg!

January 05 2011 at 7:38 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I thought maybe it was Chris Orndorff but he flies for Delta!

January 05 2011 at 6:04 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Judy, It was UNITED AIRLINES not Delta.

January 05 2011 at 4:49 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply