Air NZ checks pilot seats after flight deck mishap

Air New Zealand has checked pilot seats on its Boeing 787 Dreamliners after a flight deck mishap may have caused a Latam aircraft to plunge without warning a week ago.

Boeing at the weekend issued a reminder to airlines to check a switch on the back of pilots’ seats that could have been responsible for the incident on an Auckland to Sydney flight. It had first notified airlines about the possible problem in 2017.

It was reported that a Latam flight attendant delivering food to the cockpit may have pushed down on the cover of the switch on the seat which caused it to be activated pushing the pilot forward on to the controls of the plane.

The aircraft with 272 passengers and crew went into a steep dive for a short time, tossing unrestrained passengers and crew around the cabin.

Fifty people were injured and 13 needed hospital treatment.

Air New Zealand chief operational and integrity and safety officer David Morgan said that since the incident with Flight LA800, his airline had been working alongside other carriers which operate the Boeing 787 aircraft to understand what may have happened.

‘‘Based on an assumption as to what the cause may have been, we initiated a fleet-wide inspection of the flight deck seat mechanism including the seat electrical switches. Subsequently, we received advice from Boeing asking airlines to inspect and maintain switches on flight deck seats.”

The inspection programme has so far found no defects on any of its 14 Dreamliner aircraft.

“We have a rigorous aircraft maintenance schedule in place to ensure our all aircraft in our fleet are at the highest degree of safety.”

The airline worked closely with aircraft and engine manufacturers to ensure it met all engineering and maintenance requirements.

“For Air New Zealand, and the wider aviation community, the safety of our people and our customers is our number one priority.”

Boeing wasn’t linking the seat switch directly to the LA800 incident, saying at the weekend the investigation of Flight LA800 was ongoing and it deferred to investigation authorities on any potential findings.

“We have taken the precautionary measure of reminding 787 operators of a service bulletin issued in 2017 which included instructions for inspecting and maintaining switches on flight deck seats.”

It recommended that operators perform an inspection of the switches “at the next maintenance opportunity”.

Latam Airlines said it was working “in coordination with the authorities in order to support the ongoing investigation”.

The airline has been under fire for the way it treated victims on the flight and how it has responded in public to the incident.