A pilot for AirAsia enroute to Kuala Lumpur accidentally set his navigation way off track and ended up having to land in Melbourne. He had departed from Sydney.
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 kilometers (6,835 miles), 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 takeoff, but the crew ignored them, according to the report.
Once the captain and the first officer realized the mistake, they tried to fix the system. But it was too late.
Because their navigation systems were so screwy, they landed in Melbourne. (They were originally asked to return to Sydney, but weather prevented them from doing so).
How the story is being reported incorrectly
Here’s something about this story though that I believe is being reported incorrectly.
Even the CNN article writes, “[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.” Which isn’t exactly right from everything I am reading.
He didn’t accidentally fly to Melbourne. It isn’t as if the pilot suddenly looked up and was on the Southern side of Australia instead of Malaysia.
The pilot entered the original location incorrectly and did not notice until he was airborne. He attempted to fix the system while in the air, but that only made it worse.
So they landed the plane to fix things so they had proper navigation. This wasn’t a case of “holy crap, I flew to the wrong airport!)
Still, it’s a big error to make as a pilot. Especially when your navigation system warns you that something is wrong.
It’s just different from “accidentally” landing somewhere. The pilot intentionally landed in Melbourne.