TONY FERNANDES: He cited the incident as a 'minor issue' and 'nothing out of normal.
KUALA LUMPUR: The pilots of an AirAsia X flight D7172 from Kuala Lumpur to Jeddah on Sunday aborted the flight and circled for hours to burn off fuel before landing safely in Malaysia, the AirAsia Group's boss said.
"One auto-thrust not functioning properly. Actually okay to fly but we just returning it to base," Tony Fernandes told AFP in a text message, calling it a "minor issue."
He confirmed the plane landed safely at Kuala Lumpur's international airport late Sunday afternoon. Auto-thrusters are systems that are used to ensure a plane continues to travel at a steady speed.
Fernandes confirmed the plane -- operated by the long-haul arm of the AirAsia Group of carriers, AirAsia X -- landed safely at Kuala Lumpur's international airport late on Sunday afternoon.
Auto-thrusters are systems that are used to ensure a plane continues to travel at a steady speed.
Flight-tracking websites indicated AirAsia X Flight D7172 flew several wide circles over the Strait of Malacca to burn off fuel.
Fernandes called the manoeuvre a "routine" precaution as the plane was heavily laden with fuel that normally would have been used up during the several-hour flight to the Saudi Arabian city.
"Just burning off fuel as has lots of fuel as was going to Jeddah," he said.
AirAsia later said the passengers were put on another plane which was to depart in the evening.
"As a safety precaution, and in full compliance with all international security and safety standards, the aircraft made a turn back and safely landed at ... 1740 hours (0940 GMT)," it said in a statement.
Although QZ8501 was the AirAsia group's first deadly accident, it followed two deadly Malaysia Airlines incidents last year that killed over 500 people and raised concerns among many travellers about the safety of the country's carriers.
"What is happening with Malaysia and airplanes? This is really, really scary," posted one Twitter user.
Meanwhile, Transport Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai in a Tweet post confirmed that the flight has safely landed at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport 2 in Sepang after circling for several hours over the Straits of Melaka, Sunday afternoon.
On Dec 28, AirAsia Flight QZ8501 went down in stormy weather in the Java Sea.
Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 disappeared last March after inexplicably diverting from its Kuala Lumpur-Beijing course. The airliner, carrying 239 people, is believed to have crashed in the Indian Ocean, but no trace has been found.
- Source: Agencies