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Pilots Mistook Melbourne for Malaysia

A flight to Malaysia from Sydney accidentally flew to Melbourne instead because its pilot entered the wrong coordinates, an Australian aviation investigation report has found.

Carrying 212 passengers, the Air Asia flight bound for Kuala Lumpur on March 10, 2015, was incorrectly guided to Melbourne after the pilot manually entered the wrong coordinates into the flight's onboard navigation systems.

When manually entering the coordinates of the plane's position, the pilot incorrectly entered 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), the report said.

"This resulted in a positional error in excess of 11,000 kilometres, which adversely affected the aircraft's navigation systems and some alerting systems," the report said.

The crew had "a number of opportunities to identify and correct the error," the report said, but didn't notice the problem until after the plane became airborne and started tracking in the wrong direction. Several message alerts and sounds suggested the error before take off, but the crew ignored them, according to the report.

Once the captain and the first officer realised the mistake, they tried to fix the system.

"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," the report said.

As systems failed further, the crew asked to return to Sydney and conduct a landing without the use of navigation systems. However, weather conditions in Sydney forced the plane to land in Melbourne instead.

Air Asia said all aircraft have been equipped with upgraded flight management systems since the incident.


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