Serbia’s presidential jet went into a sudden plunge on a flight to Rome last week when the co-pilot tried to mop up a coffee spill, an inquiry found.
President Tomislav Nikolic and other passengers were reportedly thrown around the 34-year-old Falcon 50’s cabin before the captain managed to regain control.
Tomislav Nikolic had been heading to Rome on April 17 for a meeting with Pope Francis.
The jet later turned back to Belgrade. The plane landed safely back in the Serbian capital, but the president was forced to cancel his official visit to meet Pope Francis in the Vatican, and his advisers put the incident down to yet another malfunction on the ageing, incident-prone aircraft.
Co-pilot Bojan Zoric has been suspended after the inquiry found he had “accidentally activated the emergency switch”. That caused the plane to plunge from a height of 34,000 feet.
One of the Falcon’s three engines shut down because of the sudden drop in altitude, but it was quickly restarted.