TIME Aviation

A Jet Ended Up in Melbourne Instead of Malaysia After the Pilot Entered the Wrong Navigation Code

The error was due to the omission of a single digit in position coordinates

An AirAsia X flight from Sydney to Malaysia last year landed instead in Melbourne after the plane’s navigational system started going haywire, all because its captain accidentally omitted a single zero when he entered the destination’s coordinates.

The plane took off without a hitch just before noon on March 10, 2015, but the crew noticed something was amiss when it turned and started heading in the wrong direction. The incident was revealed Wednesday in a report by Australia’s Air Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB), cited by the Sydney Morning Herald.

The report said the typo “knocked out” several key navigational systems. The single erroneous digit had the system convinced that the plane was near the South African city of Cape Town — nearly 7,000 miles away.

The plane’s autopilot and auto-thrust features were disabled, the Herald reports, and the pilot was guided to Melbourne by air-traffic controllers. Once the problem was diagnosed, the plane was able to continue to Malaysia as planned, albeit a few hours late.

The ATSB said that “position initialization” errors happen approximately twice a year.


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