Passenger on Boeing flight that suddenly dropped says pilot told him he lost control after

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CNN
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The pilot of a terrifying flight from Australia to New Zealand told those on board he temporarily lost control of his Boeing 787 after one of its instruments failed, a passenger said Monday, as authorities investigate what caused a sudden drop that threw travelers around the cabin, injuring dozens.

The incident aboard LATAM Airlines flight 800 from Sydney to Auckland is the latest to hit troubled aircraft manufacturer Boeing, which has been rocked by years of quality and safety issues.

Passenger Brian Jokat described the horrifying moment when he was woken from his sleep as the aircraft “dropped something to the effect of 500 feet instantly.”

“That’s when I opened my eyes and there was various individuals at the top of the plane. Just stuck to the roof and then they fell to the floor. And then I just realized I’m not in a movie, this is actually for real,” he told CNN’s Erin Burnett.

After landing in Auckland, Jokat said the pilot checked on the passengers and explained he had temporarily lost control of the jet.

“I immediately engaged with him and said, ‘What was that?’ And he openly admitted, he said, ‘I lost control of the plane. My gauges just kind of went blank on me,’” Jokat said.

“He said for that brief moment he couldn’t control anything and that’s when the plane did what it did. Then he said the gauges came back and it reengaged, the plane just reengaged to its normal flight pattern. And we had no issues before, no issues after. But just that moment.”

The plane, operated by Chile’s flag carrier, was a Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner, according to flight tracking website FlightAware.

LATAM on Monday said the plane “had a technical event during the flight which caused a strong movement,” adding it had landed as scheduled in Auckland.

In a statement to CNN Tuesday, Boeing said it was “working to gather more information about the flight and will provide any support needed by our customer.”

About 50 people were injured in the incident, with one person in serious condition, emergency services said.

Jokat said he feared for his life when he saw fellow passengers fly out of their seats and hit the ceiling of the plane.

“People were screaming and crying. And yeah, it was mass chaos for a few short seconds,” he said. “Clearly there was a moment in my head that I just kind of resigned to the fact this could be it. This might be it.”

About 50 people were injured in the incident, according to emergency services in Auckland.

As investigators scramble to discover what might have caused the sudden drop, the incident comes at a fraught time for Boeing.

The US manufacturer has faced harsh criticism for a series of quality and safety issues in recent years, with many critics saying the company has shifted its focus in the last few decades to financial results at the cost of safety and quality in its aircraft.

They include two fatal crashes of the 737 Max jet due to a design flaw in the plane, numerous halts in deliveries due to quality control issues and, most recently, a door plug that blew off of a new 737 Max operated by Alaska Airlines in January, leaving a gaping hole in the side of the plane.

Meanwhile, the Federal Aviation Administration in February flagged safety issues with engine anti-ice systems on the 737 Max and larger 787 Dreamliner.

The safety regulator continues to allow both models of the plane to fly despite the potential problems. Both issues are moving through the FAA’s standard process for developing airworthiness directives — rather than an emergency process — signaling that the agency and plane maker do not believe the issues are serious enough to require the planes to stop flying immediately.

The FAA said Monday it has given Boeing until late May to produce a plan to remedy issues identified in a federal audit and other reviews, including a safety culture survey of employees and a separate panel report that found workers concerned about retaliation for reporting safety concerns.

FAA Administrator Mike Whitaker said he expects the company to produce “a very detailed plan within the next 90 days to fix the quality issues that are out there.”

Boeing has said it is working on several of the issues Whitaker identified.

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