Malaysia Airlines A330 took off with pitot covers attached

A Malaysia Airlines Airbus A330 took off from Brisbane Airport with covers still attached to all three of its airspeed sensors, a report by the Australian Transport Safety Bureau has found.

The jet, 9M-MTK (c/n 1388) departed the Queensland capital on the night of July 18, 2018, bound for Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia with 14 crew and 215 passengers on board.

Covers had been left on the aircraft’s three pitot probes which resulted in the flight instruments showing a red speed flag in place of the airspeed indication from early in the take-off, and unrealistically low airspeeds afterwards.

The report said the pilots did not respond to the speed flags until the widebody’s speed was too high for a safe rejection and the take-off was continued. After lift-off, Tango Kilo climbed to 11,000ft and circled while the crew performed troubleshooting and other procedures which led the pilots to shutting down the aircraft’s air data systems.

Malaysia Airlines currently operates a fleet of 15 Airbus A330-300s.
Malaysia Airlines currently operates a fleet of 15 Airbus A330-300s. Aviation Image Network/Bailey

Doing so activated the back up speed scale (BUSS), a safety function which displays safe flight envelope information to the flight crew instead of airspeed.

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