LATAM flight: 'Lack of specific detail' surrounding technical glitch on Sydney-Auckland flight unusual - aviation expert

An aviation expert says the lack of detail surrounding a technical glitch which injured 50 people onboard a flight to Auckland on Monday is unusual.  

People on board flight LA800 travelling from Sydney were thrown out of their seats and into the ceiling after the plane experienced a "sudden drop".  

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Hato Hone St John Ambulance treated injured patients, with Health New Zealand confirming five of them remain in hospital as of 7am this morning.   

"Four patients were admitted to Middlemore Hospital with a range of injuries and are in a stable condition," a Health NZ spokesperson told Newshub. 

"One patient is currently at Auckland City Hospital and is also in a stable condition."  

LATAM Airlines Group said the plane had a "technical problem during the flight which caused a strong movement believed to be a sudden drop".  

However, aviation expert Irene King told AM the lack of detail is "very unusual".  

"There's a lack of specific detail here. It's very unusual," King said.    

"Given that they have said it's a technical issue, it could be anything from their systems having a glitch to an operator-induced glitch.  

Passenger Brian Jokat told RNZ at the end of the flight the pilot came to the back of the plane. 

"I asked him, I said 'what happened?' and he said my instrument panel went blank just you know for a second." 

Newshub has approached LATAM for further information. 

King described the eight-year-old Boeing 787-9 aircraft as "reasonably sophisticated".  

"The first step is, with such a serious issue and so many people injured, they have to report." 

King said she's surprised it hasn't yet been reported to the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA).  

"They have to report [it] first to the CAA then they will determine whether it should refer the matter to the Transport Accident Investigation Commission (TAIC)." 

TAIC said in a statement on Tuesday morning it was aware of the incident.

"We are gathering further information to inform a decision as to whether to open and inquiry." 

King said TAIC may well step in because of the fact so many people were injured, and it was a "very unusual" set of circumstances. 

"I have never heard of so many people being injured. There should be some step up in urgency, in terms of this investigation."  

"I would expect LATAM to be speaking and talking quite openly to the regulators, because these aircraft - they just don't throw glitches like this." 

When asked about the use of seatbelts, King said the flight was "absolutely evidence" on why people should wear them but understands why some weren't.  

"This aircraft was just prior to the top of descent which explains why so many people were moving around because they were going to be seated in the next 15 minutes," she said.  

Passengers 'praying and crying'

Passenger Brian Jokat also spoke with BBC, describing himself as "one of the lucky ones". 

"The plane unannounced just dropped, it dropped unlike anything I have ever experienced on any kind of minor turbulence. People were thrown out of their seats, hit the top of the roof of the plane, thrown down the aisles. It was madness," Jokat said.  

"The gentleman sitting next to me was basically lifted out of his seat and was on the roof of the plane, inside basically stretched out. He just dropped to the floor from the ceiling.  

He said he felt like he was dreaming when he woke up. 

"I looked over my shoulder just to see what else was going on, and some of the roof panels were broken from people being thrown up and knocking through the plastic roof panels," Jokat explained. 

"There was blood coming from several people's heads, people were yelling and screaming. 

"It was unlike anything I had ever seen before," he said. 

Another passenger, Lucas Ellwood, told ABC News he's thankful he's still alive. 

"No one had any warning that it was going to happen. There were no comms on the radios and we had just finished lunch. The jolt took us all by surprise," he said. 

"It was a very quick jolt, it felt like an earthquake. It was scary and it was violent. It sent all of the belongings scattered through the plane, it was very hectic.  

"Luckily I had my seatbelt on," he said. "Everything and everyone not fastened to the plane hit the roof.  

"People were scared, people were in fear for their lives, praying and crying. Just everything you can imagine."