Passengers aboard a Malaysia-bound plane were in for a surprise when they found out they had landed some 4,000 miles away from their intended destination.
An AirAsia flight from Sydney to Malaysia took a wrong turn and ended up in Australian city of Melbourne after the crew aboard the Airbus A330 accidentally entered the wrong coordinates. The incident occurred in March last year, but the Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB ) has just released the findings of their air safety investigation.
As it appears, the captain is not the only one to blame given that a series of unfortunate events led to the colossal mistake. The problem actually began with faulty earmuffs, which prompted the pilot and first officer to swap their usual pre-flight checks. As the report suggests, usually the captain would “conduct an external inspection of the plane” while the first officer completed the “position initialization and alignment procedures” in the cockpit.
However, since the captain’s earmuffs were not functional on this fateful day, he took over the task to enter the current coordinates into the plane’s internal navigation system. He manually copied the coordinates from a sign outside the airplane window into the system, but instead of entering the longitude as 151° 9.8’ east (15109.8), he typed 15° 19.8’ east (01519.8.)
“This adversely affected the onboard navigation systems however, despite a number of opportunities to identify and correct the error, it was not noticed until after the aircraft became airborne and started tracking in the wrong direction,” the report said. “The flight crew attempted to troubleshoot and rectify the situation while under heavy workload. Combined with limited guidance from the available checklists, this resulted in further errors by the flight crew in the diagnosis and actioning of flight deck switches.”
Due to bad weather in Sydney, the plane could not head back either, so they continued in the opposite direction and landed in South Australia.
The Airbus was at Melbourne airport for three hours before leaving for Kuala Lumpur.