LATAM 787-9 Upset Inquiry Focused On ‘Seat Movement’

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Investigators are focused on “flight deck seat movement” in the upset episode involving a LATAM Boeing 787-9 on Monday (March 11). A report published by TAC—The Air Current news outlet—cites information received from “two people briefed on the incident.” The news source also cites a senior airline safety official who said it is understood the seat movement at cruise altitude on the flight from Sydney, Australia, to Auckland, New Zealand (final destination was Santiago, Chile) was “pilot induced, not intentionally.” The sources also said “the seat movement caused the nose-down” attitude that resulted in the abrupt loss of altitude, causing injuries to dozens of passengers and crew members.

Possible electrical issues are also being explored. The sources told TAC that investigation into the flight crew’s PA announcement to passengers that the “gauges blanked out” is not the main focus of the inquiry.

According to the TAC report, there are two methods of adjusting seat position on the flight deck of a 787. One control is designed to be used by the pilot while seated, and the second is located on a covered panel on the back of the seat under the headrest, primarily meant to be used to reposition the seat from the in-flight position for access by the pilot.

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Mark Phelps is a senior editor at AVweb. He is an instrument rated private pilot and former owner of a Grumman American AA1B and a V-tail Bonanza.

28 COMMENTS

  1. The 787 has been in service for many years, now we find out you can move the seat and knock the flight controls that bad? Who designs this stuff “Crash Banderkoot”.

    • It has been a while since I have flown the 787 but I was a check airman on it for 6 years and instructed in the simulator as well. The seat does not move quickly at all and I cannot fathom how this was anything other than pilot error.

      • Would it be possible someone could leave a pubs bag between the seat and column and then inadvertently move the seat forward with the secondary controls – forcing the yolk forward till the AP disconnects?

        • I guess a bag between seat and control column could indeed be a possible explanation, but still hard to believe that that would happen to a pilot with thousands of hours on flight decks.

  2. So, what’s next? The poor flight attendant is going to be tragically suicided like that QC engineer that was in the middle of his deposition against Boeing?

  3. This was obviously due to the lack of complete information regarding the design of the seat control system. All 787 training must be extended to include further training on detailed operation of the seats and possible failure modes. The QRH will have a new emergency checklist item: Unexpected Seat Movement

  4. Unintended seat movement?
    Reminds me of the Audi “unintended Acceleration” BS of many years ago.
    The Flight Data Recorder information would be interesting?
    I hope they get a real answer.
    I will be flying on a LATAM 787 from Santiago to SFO next month.

    • Yes, the Audi “unintended Acceleration” was mostly BS caused by drivers having a foot on the accelerator when they thought they had a foot on the brake when they shifted from park to drive or reverse. However, part of the problem was identified as pedal location. Anyway, Audi redesigned the shift mechanism so that you could not shift without having a foot on the brake. And to their credit, they patented their system and then made the patent available to all parties royalty free.

      I also think that we need to wait for the Flight Data Recorder information but by then everyone will have moved on to the news of the day.

  5. Wow.. Professional Social Engineer maybe? There’s a vortex sized lack of scientific rigor in your statements, investigation, and conclusions here causing your post to bottom out, slamming me and the other readers down on the floor of disbelief.

  6. No doubt the FDR will have information ?

    I can say that 30 years ago I was flying a Mooney between Norfolk Island and Lord Howe Island off the Australian coast. The ocean was mirror calm, the air severe clear but 200 miles north towards Vanuatu there was a tropical cyclone. In an instant it felt as if I had hit a brick wall and my short wave radio which was sitting on a 20 gal. fuel drum next to me hit the cabin ceiling. In no more than 3 seconds the radio came back down and the prop was still spinning as if nothing had happened ! I am now 83 and still aviating with pleasure because I can’t use the public transport that is now reserved for the US President since AF I is grounded.

  7. I understand they are now looking at an explanation involving actions of a flight attendant coupled with a broken or damaged switch cover on the rocker switch located on the back of the seat that allows someone to run the seat forward & backward. Oh, and that coupled with a loose or displaced rocker switch. Whatever the final story is, it’s gonna be a good one.

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