An airplane which took off from Sydney and bound for Malaysia ended up in Melbourne after a pilot’s error in plotting the coordinates of the plane’s position caused the flight to be diverted, an Australian aviation investigation published Wednesday reported.
The unfortunate incident, which happened on March 10 of last year, saw the 212 passengers of the AirAsia flight bound for Kuala Lumpur erroneously landing in the same country after their takeoff from Sydney. The Australian Transport Safety Bureau report revealed that the pilot allegedly entered the wrong coordinates manually into the flight’s navigational systems, according to CNN
The pilot incorrectly keyed in the longitude from a sign outside the cockpit window as 01519.8 East (15 degrees 19.8 minutes East) instead of 15109.8 East (151 degrees 9.8 minutes East), causing the plane to fly in the wrong direction.
“This resulted in a positional error in excess of 11,000 kilometers (6,835 miles), which adversely affected the aircraft’s navigation systems and some alerting systems.” the report said.
It was later found out that faulty earmuffs caused a mix-up prompting the captain and the first officer to exchange their duties prior to liftoff. The common setup would see the captain conducting inspections while the first officer completes the pre-flight preparation procedures inside the cockpit. A miscommunication caused them to swap their tasks.
While the mistake was immediately noticed from ground control, the flight crew allegedly ignored the several warning alerts and messages which supposedly pointed out the error. The plane was already in the air and going to the wrong direction when the captain and the crew noticed the mistake.
The report explained that fixing the error while airborne was already too late. “Attempts to troubleshoot and rectify the problem resulted in further degradation of the navigation system, as well as to the aircraft’s flight guidance and flight control system,” it said.
With systems malfunctioning, the flight was diverted to Sydney and later was forced to land in Melbourne due to poor weather conditions. After three hours on the ground in Melbourne, the plane then took off for Malaysia.
AirAsia expressed in its statement that they have updated their flight management systems after the incident to avoid similar errors in the future.