Carry on flying…regardless

By | Category: Travel rumblings
the plane in question. Image taken from the report

the plane in question. Image taken from the report

There was never a film in the Carry On series of films that looked at flying but a couple of Air Asia pilots may have remedied that!

Some readers might remember that a plane flying from Sydney in Australia to the Malaysian capital of Kuala Lumpur wound up 600 miles south of Sydney in Melbourne. A report by the Australian Transport Safety Bureau has just been released and it suggests that faulty ear protection may have been a contributing factor. Yes you did read that correctly.

The earmuffs/ear defenders are worn when the captain goes outside the plane during pre-flight checks to make sure the plane doesn’t have a gaping hole, something loose or anything else that can be visibly checked.

On this particular day, the captain couldn’t use the earmuffs so the first officer went outside to check. That left the captain to do the tasks that a first officer would do which was to feed into the plane’s computer system the location of the plane.  Unfortunately, the captain put in the wrong co-ordinateswhich made the aircraft computer believe that the plane was somewhere else. It thought it was about 7,000 miles away.

Before the plane took off there were warning chimes which, because there was no other indicators showing a problem, the pilots ignored. There was an aural report whilst they taxied which would normally mean that the pilots would pull-up. The report says “for reasons believed to be associated with spurious activation, this did not take place.” I wonder what “spurious activation” is?

But that is why pilots are on board planes you might think, so that they can manually fly the plane. It appears that neither pilot knew they were flying in the wrong direction for a little while.  Ground control noticed an error when the plane started flying in the wrong direction. The report says that “the flight crew attempted to troubleshoot and rectify the situation while under heavy workload. 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. ”

You would expect the crew to try and sort the situation out which is what they tried to do. Unfortunately this may have – and I have to use a technical expression here – buggered up the computer system well and truly. As visibility in Sydney had deteriorated since they left and they would be forced to fly manually, they were told to fly on to Melbourne where visibility was good.

The report advises AirAsia to upgrade its flight systems to prevent or detect such errors in future. In fairness though, there were warnings given by the system that the pilots failed to heed.

It just goes to show what an extra naught can cause!

For those wishing to read the actual report, click here and then go to the link for the 39 page pdf of the report.
https://www.atsb.gov.au/publications/investigation_reports/2015/aair/ao-2015-029/

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