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Coffee spill caused plunge of Serbian presidential plane

President Nikolic was forced to miss an appointment with Pope Francis last week over beverage-induced plane trouble. The incident was caused by a co-pilot mopping up spilt coffee, authorities have said.

The co-pilot accidentally activated the emergency slat extension, sending the plane into a dive, and causing one of three engines on the French made Falcon jet to shut down for several minutes, Serbian civil aviation authorities said Tuesday.

"Co-pilot Bojan Zoric accidentally knocked over coffee onto the instrument panel and, in trying to mop up the coffee, activated the 'emergency slat extension' which caused the plane to lose altitude," an official report said.

Slats are located on the front edges of the wings and control the aircraft's angle of descent.

The plane then started shaking violently, with passengers being tossed all over the cabin, according to associates of the

Serbian president

.

Coffee was spilt due to turbulence, pilot and co-pilot have said.

Co-pilot suspended

Although the pilots managed to "rapidly retake control of the plane", they were forced to return to Belgrade, thus causing the president Tomislav Nikolic to miss his appointment with

Pope Francis

.

The co-pilot Zoric was suspended for not following the predetermined procedure and endangering flight security, officials said.

According to presidents associates, Nikolic will use only commercial flights in the future, considering that 34-year-old government Falcon 50 has a history of flight problems.

dj/rc (AP, Beta, AFP)

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