‘Gauges Went Blank’ Before 787’s Sudden Loss Of Altitude


Brian Jokat, a passenger onboard a LATAM Airlines 787-9 that had a sudden loss of altitude on Monday, says the captain told him the “gauges went blank” and he was briefly unable to control the airliner. The airline had previously said in a statement there was “a technical event during the flight which caused a strong movement.” The plane, carrying 263 people, was heading to Auckland, New Zealand, from Sydney, Australia, when the incident occurred. CNN interviewed an American passenger on the plane who said the captain appeared shaken as he surveyed the aftermath of the violent maneuver. He said the captain told him the panel quickly came back on and the systems resumed normal operation.

The “sudden drop” sent a dozen people to a hospital in New Zealand after they were flung about the cabin. Many suffered head injuries when they struck the ceiling. About 35-to-40 others were treated at Auckland Airport by paramedics. The Dreamliner was cruising at 41,000 feet with about an hour left in the three-hour flight when the incident occurred. The plane left Sydney and was headed ultimately to Santiago with a planned stop in Auckland. The flight from Auckland to Santiago was canceled and rescheduled for Tuesday.

Russ Niles
Russ Niles is Editor-in-Chief of AVweb. He has been a pilot for 30 years and joined AVweb 22 years ago. He and his wife Marni live in southern British Columbia where they also operate a small winery.


  1. Can’t they just carry a Garmin Aera 760 with them? Maybe a hand held with an external antenna port, too?

  2. You know, the same thing happens in my Laser or Pitts when I push forward very hard on the stick and get at least 4 G’s initially. This maneuver is to wake up all my neurons and increase my heart tempo because we’re about to have some fun.

  3. Willing to bet no passenger who had their seatbelt on was hurt. What ever happened to taking responsibility for your own safety?

    • Three hour flight, hour and a half check in, most pax will need to use the facilities at some point and will not be belted in. I stay belted when possible but…

      • Yes, when I fly I never unbuckle my seat belt and have been doing this since the early ’70’s. As to the 787. was this an anomaly or has this been an unspoken problem with the Dreamliner?

        • It seems to be an ever more common issue with the ADIRUs (Air data inertial reference units). They are common to most aircraft these days and the same units can be found in both Boeing and Airbus across all models. It seems to be a well kept secret. These altitude excursions seem to be more common all the time. If there were a gremlin in those things, do you think they would ground the entire world wide fleet?

      • 12 using facilities at the same time? Or 12 that had used the facilities and didn’t bother rebuckling their safety equipment? Or maybe 12 that were trying out that cool TikTok thing about bringing your knees up and fastening the belt around your feet?

        • None of the flight attendants were not buckled in, of course. The Cockpit and Flight Data recorders will tell the story…

  4. Pretty sure a sunspot was due to hit earth at about that time. If I was the crew that is one line I would push — better than the “just flamed out on me” used by early jet pilots.

  5. Call me skeptical that an experienced 787 pilot would wander back into the cabin (before all the passengers deplaned) and make such a statement. Especially if he was “shaken”. Clearly something happened, but, come on…

  6. 3000 hours flying the 787. I have hit turbulence that made it difficult to control the airspeed but never saw the displays blank. Probably the first time this guy has ever been in any bad turb. It definitely lurks over the pacific.

  7. I’m skeptical of the alleged conversation but not surprised the captain may have come back into the cabin headed for the lav to clean up.

  8. What experienced commercial pilot would start “sharing” with passengers after such an event – personal/company reputation, liability?

    As a heavy jet pilot, I would expect moderate/severe CAT causing the auto pilot to disconnect followed by a dynamic event.

    Agree with the seat belt comments.

  9. I’m going to be on a LATAM 787 flight from Santiago to SFO next month.
    I think I’ll keep my seat belt a little tighter than I normally do in case the pilots “Gauges”? go blank.

  10. I’m thinking this morning about the Boeing aircraft that was flying from Sydney Australia to Auckland New Zealand where 50 passengers were injured when the aircraft had a technical problem and they floated around and put blood on the ceilings. If only they had their seatbelts attached tightly, I’m thinking to myself, this would not have happened.
    There was a time, BITD, when passengers took flying seriously. They planned their journeys, they dressed appropriately, as if they were going to church, they paid attention to seatbelts and especially to the instructions if anything should happen to the aircraft, they enjoyed filet mignon on the way to Florida from Boston, they were very happy travelers.
    Nowadays, passengers could care less how they dress or how much baggage they carry. It is hard to blame them, because they are screened and poked and checked and squeezed into little seats for the trip. Some of them are so big they take up two seats.
    There is a big reason that ‘Coffin Corner’ is called ‘Coffin Corner’. Icarus found out the hard way, when his feather wings melted, and he fell into the ocean. Perhaps there should be a sign for passengers, maybe some pilots, to read before they got on board the aircraft that would have an illustration of coffin corner.
    The flightdeck, because of computerized systems, seems to be so boring that the pilots are falling asleep. I would not be surprised that someday soon robots will take over the flying and especially the cabin service.

    • Coffin corner is a good point. Just becasue an aircraft is certified to FL40 and above doesn’t mean it should become routine. Another few feet and these guys will qualify as astronauts. I would guess the screen went blank when he closed his eyes. I wonder what the FO had to say about it?

  11. I flew an Airbus A350 out of Sydney that afternoon. The weather was good and the ride was mostly light chop with no unusual weather phenomena.

  12. I believe on the 787’s there is a bulletin stating that the computers after so much time (days) must be rebooted if not they will reboot on their own, this could be the case.

  13. Boeing 787 LATAM incident March11, 2024

    I can explain what happened to the LATAM flight from Sydney to Auckland. Are you interested in learning anything? I can also explain the following.
    Why did a flight from Honolulu to Sydney bottom out and injure 7 people on June 30, 2023.
    Why Hawaiian Flight 35 dropped and injured 35 people on Dec. 18, 2022.
    Why Air Canada Flight Dropped and Bottomed out on July 11, 2029, injuring 35 people.
    Why British Airways FL3900 Dropped and Bottomed out on May 5, 2019, injuring 14 people.
    Why, because they all flew into the center of a vortex, where the air is less dense; therefore the plane dropped causing the passengers to hit the ceiling, until the plane flew out the other side of the vortex, thus bottoming out, as the plane once again started flying, slamming the passengers back down on the floor.

    Ronald B. Hardwig, Professional Engineer