Pilot turns Malaysia Airlines flight around due to auto-pilot defect

A Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 plane is seen from the departure hall at the Hong Kong International Airport, in this June 2, 2011 file photo. -- PHOTO: REUTERS
A Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 plane is seen from the departure hall at the Hong Kong International Airport, in this June 2, 2011 file photo. -- PHOTO: REUTERS

KUALA LUMPUR (AFP) - A Malaysia Airlines flight was forced to turn around due to an auto-pilot defect, landing safely early Sunday, said the carrier already reeling from the loss of two planes this year.

Flight MH198 from Kuala Lumpur to Hyderabad in India departed late Saturday, but the Boeing 737-800 turned back due to an auto-pilot defect.

It landed back in Malaysia's capital almost four hours later after circling to burn fuel in the air.

"The defect did not have any impact on the safety of the aircraft or passengers. However, as a precautionary measure, the operating captain decided to turn back," the national flag carrier said in a statement.

The flight has been rescheduled to depart Kuala Lumpur Sunday.

Malaysia Airlines has had a solid record until this year, when it lost two Boeing 777-200s.

Flight MH370 with 239 people aboard inexplicably lost contact on March 8. The plane is believed to have veered off course and crashed in the southern Indian Ocean, but no trace of any wreckage has been found.

Another flight, MH17, went down over conflict-torn eastern Ukraine on July 17, killing all 289 people aboard. It is believed to have been shot down by a missile.