Latam Airlines flight: Likely reason for horror mid-air plunge revealed

  • 16/03/2024

The sudden nosedive by a Latam Airlines plane on a flight to New Zealand this week that injured 50 passengers could have been caused by a switch on the pilot's seat being accidentally pushed. 

The Wall Street Journal reports US industry officials were briefed on early evidence from an investigation into the reason the plane nosedived. 

The report said a flight attendant hit a switch on the pilot's seat while serving meals in the cockpit. The switch caused the seat to push the pilot into the controls and force the plane into a terrifying nose dive. 

The WSJ reported Boeing, who made the 787 Dreamliner, has issued a memo to airlines to check the switch on the seat is covered properly along with instructions to turn off the power to the seat's motor.   

"Closing the spring-loaded seat back switch guard onto a loose/detached rocker switch cap can potentially jam the rocker switch, resulting in unintended seat movement," the memo, which was viewed by The Wall Street Journal, said.

Around 50 passengers were injured on the flight when it suddenly dropped in the air on Monday on the way to Auckland Airport from Sydney. 

The LATAM Airlines Boeing 787 departed Sydney 11.44am local time, but two hours in it experienced what the airline is calling a "technical event" and "sudden movement". It corrected and carried onto Auckland carrying dozens of injured passengers. 

St John was called to the airport at 3:58pm on Monday after medical support was requested. 

A St John spokesperson told Newshub at the time staff treated 24 patients at the scene, however, in a later update they confirmed approximately 50 patients had been treated. One patient was in a serious condition and the remainder were in a moderate to minor condition.

Twelve patients were transported to hospital. 

The flight's carrier the Chilean airline LATAM told Newshub the people taken to the hospital were a mixture of passengers and cabin crew members.

Passenger Lucas Ellwood told Newshub the drop happened just after lunch was served. 

"People were still finishing their drinks and when the jolt happened, the wine, the unseat-belted people and lots of bags and cell phones all hit the roof," Ellwood said.

"There was one younger boy, in front of me, who was quite traumatised upon seeing his father levitate."