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Coffee Spill Causes United Plane To Inadvertently Send Out Hijacking Signal

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The Element 5 Leak-Proof 16oz Travel Tumbler is a fairly unsophisticated piece of technology that helps on-the-go professionals navigate the bumpy road to work without spilling their coffee. It runs about $33.

Such a device was most likely not used earlier this week when United Airlines Flight 940 to Frankfurt from Chicago made an emergency landing in Toronto after its pilot spilled his coffee on the plane’s communication equipment. The spill caused the equipment to inadvertently emit transponder code 7500, which happens to denote a highjacking.

The crew alerted authorities that the plane had not, in fact, been highjacked, but decided to land anyway. The 241 passengers and 14 crew members boarded another plane that was sent back to Chicago where they spent the night in a hotel. They were flown to Frankfurt on Tuesday afternoon.

Predictably, United avoided the whole “yeah, our pilot kind-of-sort-of, well, he spilled coffee all over the control panel” thing.

United spokesman Rahsaan Johnson said “Our review of the communications issue encountered on flight 940 continues, so it's too soon to comment on any particulars that led to the captain's decision to divert.”

This, despite the fact that United had already told the FAA, who relayed the information to Transport Canada, that the pilot “had inadvertently squawked a 7500 code after spilling coffee on the aircraft's radio equipment, which interfered with the communications equipment."

While you can’t really blame United for trying to gloss over this embarrassing incident, they should really give commuters more credit. Spilled coffee is a fact of life that most of us understand.

Who among us hasn’t, for example, spilled coffee in some closed quarters--say the New York City subway--while rushing to squeeze into the car before the doors close, even as you get bum rushed by some pushy Russian woman who makes a last ditch effort to board, causing you to spill your coffee all over a really big guy in a suit who proceeds to forcibly eject you from the subway in a moment of anguished shame?

Not saying this actually happened, but you get the point: You can’t cry over spilled coffee.

Although, United really should consider providing their pilots a complimentary Element Travel Tumbler for those long flights.
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