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Boeing Directs Airlines to Check Cockpit Seats on 787s After Latam Incident

Boeing Directs Airlines to Check Cockpit Seats on 787s After Latam Incident

Boeing has told airlines to check the cockpit seats of its 787 Dreamliner plane, the company said on Friday, after a Latam Airlines plane suddenly plunged on a flight to Auckland, New Zealand, on Monday, injuring passengers.

The drop in altitude appears to have been caused when a flight attendant hit a switch on a seat that sent a pilot into the plane’s controls, The Wall Street Journal reported this week, citing unnamed U.S. industry officials. Aviation regulators are investigating the incident and have not released any findings.

In a statement, Boeing said it had reminded airlines of a safety memo from 2017 that instructed them on how to inspect and maintain switches on flight deck seats.

“The investigation of Flight LA800 is ongoing and we defer to the investigation authorities on any potential findings,” the company said. “We are recommending operators perform an inspection at the next maintenance opportunity,” it added.

The Latam plane’s harrowing drop was documented in video footage captured by passengers. The plane fell abruptly and then quickly recovered, one passenger, Brian Jokat, said, likening it to “coming over the top of a roller coaster and heading down.”

The drop left at least one passenger in critical condition; 11 other people were also transported to hospitals in Auckland after the plane landed there. All told, dozens of passengers suffered injuries, most of them minor.

Regulators, airlines and travelers have been intensely focused on the quality and safety of Boeing planes since a panel sheared off an Alaska Airlines 737 Max 9 plane on Jan. 5, forcing an emergency landing. In 2018 and 2019, two 737 Max 8 planes crashed in Indonesia and Ethiopia, killing nearly 350 people.

In a message to 787 jet operators that was sent late Thursday, Boeing said it was advising of a “known condition related to a loose/detached rocker switch cap” located on the seat back of the captain’s and first officer’s seats but did not say whether the switch covers had played a role in the incident on the Latam plane.

“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,” Boeing said.

The memo, a copy of which was reviewed by The New York Times, pointed to the 2017 letter, which noted the installation of adhesive to the rocker switch caps “to prevent the caps on the rocker switches from detaching and/or becoming loose.”


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