Pilot's Typo Sends Plane on a Very Wrong Path

Flight from Sydney to Malaysia ends up in Melbourne instead
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 7, 2016 7:09 AM CDT
Updated Sep 11, 2016 6:31 AM CDT
Pilot's Typo Sends Plane on a Very Wrong Path
File photo of an Air Asia jet.   (AP Photo/Joshua Paul)

Data entry errors are often harmless enough, unless you happen to be an international pilot punching in your longitude before a flight. Then, they get interesting. As Australia's 9News.com reports, an AirAsia flight crew learned this lesson when it attempted to fly from Sydney to Malaysia—only to end up in Melbourne. It seems the captain errantly plugged in the coordinate of 01519.8 instead of 15109.8 before the flight, which amounts to a difference of nearly 7,000 miles, reports the Guardian. Odd detail: Normally, the first officer handled this chore while the captain went outside to do an external flight check, but the captain's ear muffs weren't working properly, so they switched roles.

As the plane began taxiing on the runway, its navigation system began going a little kablooey—for instance, flashing "TERRAIN! TERRAIN!—but the crew brushed off the various warnings and chimes as minor glitches, according to a report by the Australian Transport Safety Bureau. It was only when they were in air and flying in the wrong direction that they realized something was wrong and tried to override the system. Alas, “attempts to troubleshoot and rectify the problem resulted in further degradation of the navigation system," says the ATSB. The pilots requested permission to make a U-turn to Sydney, but by then the weather had turned, so they were instructed to fly on to Melbourne, two hours away in the opposite direction of the intended flight path. They fixed the problems and took off again three hours later. (This famous bridge's name is actually a 52-year-old typo.)

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