Today's award goes to the flight crew of an AirAsia X Airbus A330 airliner.
Passengers on board an AirAsia X flight from Sydney thought they were headed to Malaysia – but a pilot error sent them to Melbourne instead.
An investigation into Flight 223 which was scheduled to reach Kuala Lumpur on March 10, 2015, found that “when setting up the aircraft’s flight management and guidance system, the captain inadvertently entered the wrong longitudinal position of the aircraft” – making the aircraft’s navigational system incorrect by 11,000km.
But the pilots didn’t notice the error “until after the aircraft became airborne and started tracking in the wrong direction,” according to the Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) report. The A330 was “not fitted with an upgraded flight management system that would have prevented the data entry error” – so pilots were none the wiser.
Shortly after takeoff, the aircraft’s Enhanced Ground Proximity System issued an aural warning “terrain, terrain” – an indication that it thought the plane was too close to the ground. But as it was a day flight, the pilots could see the warning was incorrect.
The ATSB said that the flight crew tried to “troubleshoot and rectify the situation while under heavy workload” – but their efforts only exacerbated the problem. “Combined with limited guidance from the available checklists, this resulted in further errors by the flight crew in the diagnosis and actioning of flight deck switches.”
But eventually, suspecting that their systems were compromised, the pilots requested a visual landing at Sydney – one that wouldn’t rely on the aircraft’s navigational instruments. However, deteriorating weather meant that the plane was diverted to Melbourne Airport where conditions were better.
The aircraft landed safely at Melbourne – some 6,322km away from its intended destination.
There's more at the link.
How the hell the flight crew didn't figure out that the aircraft was headed in the opposite direction to what was required, I just don't know. I guess they were letting the computer fly the aircraft, as seems to be habitual these days, and thought it was smarter than they were! Just goes to prove the old acronym of GIGO - "Garbage in, garbage out".
(There's also an old saying that I learned - and re-learned, and learned again, and used many times! - in the computer industry: "Idiot proof systems are no match for system proof idiots!")