Why a Balky Coffeemaker May Delay Your Flight

Broken coffeemakers can delay flights and inconvenience scores of passengers. What gives?
518465152

518465152

Photo by: ZinaidaSopina ©ZinaidaSopina

ZinaidaSopina, ZinaidaSopina

Have you ever been sitting on the tarmac, ready for takeoff, when suddenly your plane has to taxi back to the gate because the coffee machine isn’t working? Apparently, that’s a thing.

According to The New York Times, broken coffeemakers are a surprisingly common cause of plane delays, although specific statistics are scant on how significant a factor they are overall: “You can’t just put Mr. Coffee in an airline,” Jeff Lowe, president of the airplane repair concern Aviation Fabricators, told the Times. “You have to do all kinds of engineering and analysis and provide test results to the F.A.A. to get approval.”

Some interesting facts about airplane coffeemakers, revealed in the Times:

1: They cost between $7,000 and $20,000, so a little more than your home Keurig or, yeah, Mr. Coffee.

2: According to FAA regulations, they must be outfitted with circuit breakers, insulated wiring and other safety features to guard against electrical hazards like (perish the thought) in-flight fires.

3: They also have to be fitted with special “latches,” the Times reports, to prevent anything from coming loose and wreaking hot-liquid havoc during a bumpy flight.

4: All these moving parts and electrical risks mean that a) more can go wrong and b) special care must be taken by trained personnel to keep them functional and risk-free.

5: If it’s not possible for maintenance workers to replace or fix a malfunctioning (or non-functioning) coffeemaker on a plane, they can disable it, but that requires that the power and water supplies be shut off.

Taken together, these details explain how something as minor-seeming as a broken coffeemaker can delay flights and inconvenience passengers.

But the most-important takeaway from the Times piece may be this tangential detail:

6: Some onboard coffeemakers use water from the plane’s water tank (which can clog, causing coffee-making issues); others use filtered water that flight attendants pour from a bottle. The tank water may be treated with chemicals to prevent bacteria from building up. One aerospace engineer who has helped to develop onboard coffeemakers compared the tank water to pool water and told the Times he drinks coffee on a flight only if he knows it’s been made with bottled, filtered H2O. (He is not alone in that — far from it.)

And you thought the worst thing about airplane coffee was the flimsy stirrer and the sub-par creamer.

Photo courtesy of iStock

Keep Reading

Next Up

Win This Coffeemaker!

We're giving away one Nescafe Dolce Gusto Circolo to one randomly-selected commenter.

Nutrition News: Time to Freeze Fish, Fruit and Veggie Fail, Calorie-Count Label Delay

NYC rules for raw-fish freeze, Americans fail to eat their fruits and vegetables, FDA extends calorie-label deadline.

Join Us for a Healthy May Challenge

Get fit for summer! Join us for a Healthy Every Week May Challenge; we'll help you reach your healthy eating goals by breaking up the month into healthy themes.

May's "Name This Dish" Contest Winner

Find out who won Food Network Magazine's May "Name This Dish" Contest, then come up with a name for July's fried chicken.

Oily Fish May Mend Your Broken Heart

Oily fish may help keep your heart in tip-top shape.

May's "Name This Dish" Contest Winner

Each month, thousands of Food Network Magazine readers submit clever names for the back page’s “Name This Dish” contest. In the May 2012 issue, we asked you to dream up names for bite-size cakes.

The Ingredient Your Probiotic May Be Missing

Should you try a probiotic with this key ingredient?

Food Network Magazine: May 2011 Recipe Index

Find easy recipes for appetizers, main dishes, sides and desserts plus 50 tea sandwiches from Food Network Magazine.

Astronauts May Soon Bake Bread in Space

The breadless days aboard the International Space Station may soon hurtle into the past.