Comically Bad Pilot Flies 3,728 Miles In Wrong Direction After Navigation Error

An AirAsia plane pictured in 2014. Photo Credit: Getty Images
An AirAsia plane pictured in 2014. Photo Credit: Getty Images

An AirAsia pilot who was supposed to be flying directly from Sydney to Malaysia mistakenly entered the wrong coordinates and ended up flying 6,000 kilometers (that’s 3,728 miles) out of its way.


This flight actually happened back on March 10th last year, but only today did the Australian Transport Safety Bureau released this report on just how spectacularly everything went wrong.

The pilot and co-pilot had to switch roles thanks to a malfunctioning headset, which led to the pilot manually entering the wrong coordinates of where the plane was (the pilot entered 01519.8 east instead of 15109.8 east, as CNN notes). Which led to the plane taking off from the wrong runway.


At some point after that, the pilot was able to figure out that, hey, this was not the right way to go, but having mis-set the plane’s coordinates by about 11,000 miles, the plane’s navigation system wasn’t working right. So the pilot asked to turn around to go back to Sydney, but that would require running without the nav controls, and the weather was too bad in Sydney to allow that to happen.

That meant the plane had to re-route itself back all the way down to Melbourne. After having to sit for three hours on the runway, the plane and its assuredly quite cheery passengers were able to take off again for their original destination of Kuala Lumpur.

Now my last delay doesn’t seem so bad.

(Editor’s Note: The original headline of this article could have been misunderstood to imply that the pilot flew over 3,000 miles in the wrong direction without realizing it. They realized it eventually, but still made a hilariously bad error. We’ve updated the headline to make it more clear.)

Raphael Orlove is features editor for Jalopnik.

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.................the wrong way.