How does this happen?

This is what happen if I was an airline pilot i am sure :slight_smile:

We had a crew fly to Jacksonville FL (JAX) instead of Jacksonville NC (OAJ) once many years ago. It was after that that the change was made in dispatch to always page out trips with the three or four letter identifier instead of the city name.

Gross navigation errors (like that Air Asia one) are embarrassing. Each FMS/FMC/MCDU has different quirks - for ours, the FMS uses GPS/GPS, WAAS, DME DME to constantly give the current Lat/Long even if you input the wrong coordinates during the initialization stage. Worst case scenario, you could turn it off, wait a few minutes, turn it back on and it’d find itself.

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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.

I’m sure this happens quite a bit. Humans being humans and all that. What happened next is chilling, though:

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.

“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.

Not only did they screw it up, but 1) they took too long to figure out it was broken and 2) trying to fix it made the situation worse. This is how disasters snowball. AirAsia’s training program is probably getting some close scrutiny right about now.


The headline is disingenuous in the extreme. They took off from Sydney, had a problem, requested to return to Sydney, and was routed to Melbourne. They didn’t land in another country. They landed in the same country they departed from due to equipment malfunction.

But of course my version wouldn’t generate anything close to the clicks their version did. Take care journalism, it was informative while it lasted.

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I’m surprised that they manually entered the present position co-ordinates. Pos Init on the FMS’ I have flown with (both Honeywell and Collins boxes) give the option to use the GPS position. I don’t think I have ever used any other method outside of the sim.

Best to just read the ATSB report…

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That factual report is pretty rough to read. That could have been a major accident after turning off all that inertial stuff that provides attitude data. I know there is a standby set of instruments…but that’s how big accidents happen.

There you have it, guys. Don’t trust the iNterWebZ.

The flight crew attempted to troubleshoot and rectify the situation while under heavy workload.

This line in the report that Beach linked to leaped out at me - I think it’s hard to appreciate all the stress and distraction of an airline transport cockpit while it’s flying, especially on departure and super especially while trying to fix a major navigation systems issue. Which stresses why it’s so important to test, find, and fix these sort of issues on the ground, and not expect to be able to solve them in the air.

The NTSB has all sorts of reports of high-hour pilots crashing their aircraft while being distracted with adjusting instruments, autopilots, GPSs, etc., and not staying on top of controlling the aircraft.


Yeah…the textbook case was the L1011 that crashed into the Everglades because all three crewmembers in the cockpit were troubleshooting a lightbulb. We’ve come a long way from then…but it all goes back to good training and decision making.

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I’m a big believer in not trouble shooting in the air unless absolutely necessary. Obviously, simple stuff is fine, but if it’s going to get complicated then just put the airplane on the ground safely.


Some out-of-context and out-of-order excerpts below:

The NTSB investigation discovered that the autopilot had been inadvertently switched from altitude hold to control wheel steering (CWS) mode in pitch. … Investigators believe the autopilot switched modes when the captain accidentally leaned against the yoke while turning to speak to the flight engineer, who was sitting behind and to the right of him.

Visually, since it was nighttime and the aircraft was flying over the darkened terrain of the Everglades, no ground lights or other visual sign indicated the TriStar was slowly descending.

Stockstill: We did something to the altitude.
Loft: What?
Stockstill: We’re still at 2,000 feet, right?
Loft: Hey—what’s happening here?

Less than 10 seconds after this exchange, the jetliner crashed.

That accident makes me feel ill… The good news is…it really changed the way (most) crews deal with emergencies (and non emergencies).

…and the 10 years that I was at EAL had to hear stories of ghosts, because maintenance salvaged some parts off of that aircraft to use on other L-1011s in the fleet. It’s a good thing that we didn’t have the Internet back then. would have 401 taken out by the CIA and the Second Officer (bless his soul) living in Paraguay.

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