A probe has been launched by the Malaysian Airlines after one of its plane flew in the wrong direction towards Melbourne rather than Kuala Lumpur for eight minutes during a Christmas Day flight from New Zealand.
The flight MH132 from Auckland to Kuala Lumpur took off at 2.23am on Christmas Day but flew south over the Tasman Sea rather than taking a more direct ‘north-west’ route to the Malaysian capital, radar data showed.
Just eight minutes into the flight, the pilot questioned the Airbus A330’s path with air traffic control when he became concerned that the flight was heading towards Melbourne, Australia and not towards its intended destination.
The pilot then turned north-west but passengers on board the flight were not made aware of the pilot’s discussions with air traffic controllers.
Airways, which manages air traffic control for New Zealand, said there were no safety concerns but it would investigate why the normal flight path had been changed.
“We have an internal safety team who will investigate it. The flight plan the airline filed with us was going to Kuala Lumpur but via a slightly different route than the pilot was expecting,” a spokesperson told the New Zealand Herald.
Meanwhile, Malaysisn Airlines on Monday said the pilot of MH132 was given the latest flight plan by the airline’s Operations Dispatch Centre while Auckland’s Air Traffic Control was inadvertently given an earlier flight plan.
“Both routes were following an approved flight path and the aircraft had enough fuel for both routes.
The safety of both passengers and crew were never compromised at any time,” it said.
The airline, which said it was investigating the matter, explained that flight plans were generated based on conditions at the time, covering issues such as weather, air traffic notices and route efficiency.
As many as 577 crew and passengers had lost their lives on two separate Malaysia Airlines flights last year.
Flight MH370 disappeared between Kuala Lumpur and Beijing for unknown reasons in March and MH17 was shot down by a Russian-made missile over Ukraine in July. The airlines had suffered heavy financial losses in both the disasters.