Wednesday, October 4, 2023

SpiceJet pilots grounded for gujiya-coffee in cockpit: DYK the two flight pilots don’t eat the same meal?

Last week, two SpiceJet pilots were taken off flying duties after a viral photo showed a coffee cup precariously balanced on a flight’s control panel. That incident reminded us of an intriguing aviation practice about pilots eating mid-flight that might interest you.

By Dev Goswami: A cup of coffee precariously placed near the controls of a passenger jet landed two pilots in hot water last week. Budget airline SpiceJet took two of its pilots off daily flying duties after a photo went viral of an open coffee cup balanced on a plane’s thrust levers inside the cockpit. In the photo, the pilot on the left is seen holding a gujiya. Another gujiya is seen placed just to the right of the thrust lever panel. The photo was from a Delhi-Guwahati SpiceJet flight that flew on March 8; the occasion was Holi.

Soon after the photo went viral, SpiceJet took the pilots involved off flying duties and said action will be taken against the two after an investigation. “SpiceJet has a strict policy for consumption of food inside the cockpit, which is adhered to by all flight crew. Appropriate disciplinary action will be taken upon completion of the investigation,” the company said in a statement.

The fear, as many on social media pointed out, was the coffee cup could have spilled its contents all over the flight’s control panel, causing a short-circuit or another similar mid-flight emergency.

While the SpiceJet pilots cool their heels at home (presumably), we thought of an intriguing aviation practice about pilots eating mid-flight that might interest you.

Did you know that commercial pilots generally do not eat the same set of meals as their co-pilots while flying? It’s “not a hard-set rule”, a former commercial pilot says, but is an informal industry practice (probably a breather for the two SpiceJet pilots who likely ate the same food item – gujiya – on their plane).

Another pilot who currently flies passenger jets confirmed that the captain and first officer of a flight will generally eat different meals. The pilot said that he isn’t aware if it’s something mandated by the aviation regulator DGCA, but added that it is an industry-wide practice.


The answer is straightforward and kinda obvious: The practice of the pilot and the first officer eating different meals while flying is to avoid the scary scenario of both pilots taking ill together in the event of a particular meal being contaminated.

That said, food contamination – especially of meals to be consumed by pilots – is highly unlikely with airlines, understandably, taking extra care when it comes to this aspect of aviation. Talking about crew meals, the former commercial pilot we spoke to said, “All food is safe because airlines prepare themselves.”

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