Coffee spill causes diversion for US flight


Published: Wednesday, January 5, 2011 at 10:44 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, January 5, 2011 at 10:44 a.m.

TORONTO — A pilot's spilled coffee accidentally triggered a hijacking alert and caused a United Airlines flight from Chicago to Frankfurt, Germany, to make an unscheduled stop in Canada.

A Transport Canada report said United Flight 940 was diverted to Toronto late Monday and landed safely at Pearson International Airport. The coffee spill caused distress signals to go out, including code 7500, which means hijacking or unlawful interference.

The report says Canada's defense department was notified, but that with the help of United dispatch staff the flight crew confirmed it to be a communication issue and not a hijacking.

The report on Transport Canada's website said the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration reported that United's corporate office had indicated that the pilot "had inadvertently squawked a 7500 code after spilling coffee on the aircraft's radio equipment, which interfered with the communications equipment."

"The flight crew had advised that they had communication problems and subsequently reported that they had some navigation problems as well and from there the pilot in the command diverted the flight onto to Toronto," Maryse Durette, a Transport Canada spokeswoman, said Wednesday.

United spokesman Rahsaan Johnson had said Tuesday that the pilot elected to divert the flight rather than cross the Atlantic Ocean while experiencing a communications problem. United did not immediately return a call Wednesday to comment on the reported coffee mishap.

The Boeing 777 was carrying 241 passengers and 14 crew members. Johnson said United flew them back to Chicago on another plane and put them up in hotel rooms overnight. They were scheduled to resume their flight to Germany on Tuesday.

Reader comments posted to this article may be published in our print edition. All rights reserved. This copyrighted material may not be re-published without permission. Links are encouraged.

▲ Return to Top