Boeing tells airlines to check pilot seats after report that an accidental shift led plane to plunge

Boeing is telling airlines to inspect switches on pilots’ seats in its 787 Dreamliner jets after a published report said an accidental cockpit seat movement likely caused the sudden plunge of a LATAM Airlines plane flying to New Zealand.

Boeing said Friday it recommended that airlines inspect the cockpit seats the next time they perform maintenance on their 787s. The aircraft manufacturer pointed to instructions that include how to disable motors that move the seats.

The company described its advisory as a “precautionary measure.” It noted that the investigation into what happened during Monday’s LATAM Airlines flight between Australia and New Zealand was continuing and referred questions about potential findings to investigating authorities.

LATAM Airlines initially said there was “a technical event during the flight which caused a strong movement.” In an update Tuesday, the airline said the plane “experienced a strong shake during flight, the cause of which is currently under investigation.”

Passengers reported that when the Dreamliner dropped without warning, people not wearing seatbelts were tossed from their seats and into the cabin ceiling and aisles. The plane later landed at Auckland Airport as scheduled.

About 50 people were injured, according to emergency crews in Auckland. The 787 is a two-aisle plane used mostly for long international flights.

The Wall Street Journal reported late Thursday that a flight attendant serving a meal in the cockpit hit a switch on the back of a seat that pushed the pilot into controls on the 787, pushing down the nose of the plane. The newspaper cited anonymous U.S. industry officials who were briefed on preliminary findings from the investigation.

The incident could ratchet up scrutiny of Boeing, which is already at a high level since a panel blew out of an Alaska Airlines 737 Max over Oregon in January.

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