Pilot mistakenly flew to Melbourne instead of Malaysia

Kolkata: In a weird incident, a Malaysia-bound AirAsia aeroplane could not reach its destination due to an error by the pilot. The plane – which took off from Sydney – did not leave the continent, and the passengers reached Melbourne instead of Kuala Lumpur, which is where they had expected to go.

The AirAsia X plane ended up in Melbourne after the pilot entered the aircraft’s wrong longitudinal position, safety officials explained on August 7. The incident had happened on March 10, 2015.

The air traffic controllers went on high alert after the aeroplane began flying in the wrong direction. They radioed the crew but attempts to fix the problem only led to “further degradation of the navigation system, as well as to the aircraft’s flight guidance and flight control systems,” the Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) said following an investigation.

The pilot, who had been flying airbus A330s for 18 months, decided to return to Sydney but due to bad weather was forced to fly manually to Melbourne, the ATSB report added.

“The ATSB found that when setting up the aircraft’s flight management and guidance system, the captain inadvertently entered the wrong longitudinal position of the aircraft,” it said, reported AFP.

“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 ATSB also found that the plane was not fitted with an upgraded flight management system that would have prevented the data entry error.

“The flight crew attempted to troubleshoot and rectify the situation while under heavy workload,” the ATSB said.

“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.”

The weird incident led the aircraft company to share it with all its pilots and developed a new training manual for its flight crews.

As it is known that AirAsia suffered its first fatal incident in December 2014, when Flight QZ8501 crashed in stormy weather off Indonesia with 162 people on board. The tragic accident was followed by two other incidents in the same year, which left more than 500 people dead, raising concerns among some travellers about the safety of the carriers.

(With AFP inputs)