In a report issued on Wednesday, the Australian Transport Safety Bureau has determined how an Air Asia X wide-body jet wound up in a city thousands of miles away from its destination.
On March 10, 2015, an Air Asia X Airbus took off from Sydney for a scheduled flight to Kuala Lumpur. However, instead of flying to Malaysia, the Airbus A330-343X landed in Melbourne, 500 miles southwest of Sydney.
According to the ATSB, the Captain of the flight input the wrong coordinates for Sydney Airport into the jet’s flight navigation system.
The error wreaked havoc on the A330’s advanced flight management and guidance systems.
“The longitude was incorrectly entered as 01519.8 east (15° 19.8′ east) instead of 15109.8 east (151° 9.8′ east),” The ATSB wrote in its report. “This resulted in a positional error in excess of 6,835 miles, which adversely affected the aircraft’s navigation systems and some alerting systems.”
Instead of Sydney, the coordinates entered by the Captain placed the flight’s point of origin some where off the coast of Cape Town, South Africa, the report indicated.
Unfortunately, the pilots did not realise they made an error until after the aircraft took off and began to fly in the wrong direction.
“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,” investigators wrote.
Even worse, the pilots’ attempts to correct the matter managed further deteriorate the situation.
“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 systems,” the ATSB wrote.
Eventually, the pilots elected to abort the flight and return to Sydney. However, weather prevented the flight from doing so, and the flight crew elected to divert to Melbourne. No injuries have been reported relating to this incident.
According to the report, both members of the flight crew were experienced pilots. The Captain has more than 22,000 hours of flying under his belt while the first officer has 2,200 hours of experience.
In statement to Business Insider, Air Asia X wrote:
“With reference to the Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) report published today regarding an incident involving an AirAsia X Airbus A330 aircraft with registration number 9M-XXM bound for Kuala Lumpur from Sydney on 10 March 2015, AirAsia X would like to confirm that we have taken the following corrective actions immediately following the incident, and prior to the publication of today’s ATSB report:
• All AirAsia X aircraft have been equipped with upgraded flight management systems since the incident
• Development of a training bulletin and package for flight crew that emphasises correct operation and alignment of air data and inertial reference system
• Briefing all pilots on our internal investigation findings and reviewing recovery procedures to be undertaken
AirAsia X would like to stress that we have in place robust management systems to monitor and prevent similar incidents from reoccurring.
We also wish to reiterate that we have regularly passed safety and security audits conducted by various international regulators, including the IATA Operational Safety Audit (IOSA). We remain committed to ensuring our compliance to all safety and security regulations.
The safety of all guests and crew are our utmost priority at all times.”
Despite this incident, Malaysia-based Air Asia X is considered one of the best low cost airlines in the world. The long haul arm of Tony Fernandes’ Air Asia airline empire was recently rated as the sixth best low cost airline in the world by consumer aviation website Skytrax.
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