Accidental Press Of Pilot’s Seat Adjustment Button?

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Summary

  • Unintentional seat movement might have caused the sudden mid-flight drop on a LATAM Airlines flight to Auckland, New Zealand.
  • The Chilean authorities are leading the investigation with the help of their New Zealand-based colleagues.
  • While the flight landed safely, around 50 people were treated for injuries after the aircraft arrived at its destination.

Chilean investigators working on the LATAM Airlines incident, when around 50 people were injured during the flight following a sudden mid-air drop, have focused on the movement of a pilot’s seat inside the cockpit of the Boeing 787.

Unintentional seat movement

According to a report by The Air Current, sources familiar with the investigation have indicated that the quick change in altitude could have been caused by a potential movement of one of the cockpit seats, which would not have been intentional. However, the circumstances of the movement, including whether there was a short circuit, are not fully clear.

As shown by the video embedded above, in order to move back the captain’s seat on the Boeing 787, one would have to lift the lid to uncover the button that sits just below the headrest. Subsequently, pushing the button to the left slides the seat back, while pressing on the right side of the button pushes the seat forward.

Investigation underway

On March 12, 2024, a day after the incident, the Chilean Directorate General of Civil Aviation (Dirección General de Aeronáutica Civil, DGCA) released a statement that in accordance with the International Civil Aviation Organization’s (ICAO) regulations, it will lead the investigation on the incident, since the Boeing 787 was registered in Chile.

LATAM Airlines Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner CC-BGM

Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying

At the same time, the New Zealand Transport Accident Investigation Commission (TAIC) said that while the accident occurred in international airspace, the commission will help the Chilean investigators since they requested the assistance of the TAIC.

“TAIC is in the process of gathering evidence relevant to the inquiry, including seizing the cockpit voice and flight data recorders.”

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Quick change in altitude

The incident happened on March 11, when a LATAM Airlines Boeing 787-9, registered as CC-BGG, suddenly lost altitude while flying between Sydney Airport (SYD) and Auckland Airport (AKL). In a statement to Simple Flying, a Hato Hone St John ambulance services representative confirmed that it deployed 14 units in response to the incident, treating around 50 patients, one of whom was in a serious condition.

A LATAM Airlines Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner registration CC-BBF

Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying.

Meanwhile, a LATAM Airlines spokesperson said that the flight had a “technical event,” which caused “a strong movement.” LATAM Airlines flight LA800 landed safely at AKL on schedule. In response to the incident, the carrier also scheduled another flight to Santiago International Airport (SCL) to bring back the passengers from New Zealand.

The aircraft involved in the incident returned to SCL on March 14. Subsequently, the Boeing 787-9 operated flight LA500 between SCL and Miami International Airport (MIA), landing on United States soil on time, according to Flightradar24 records.

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