• 30 passengers on board Latam flight LA800 are speaking to an aviation lawyer after receiving injuries on the plunging flight.
  • Carter Capner Law is investigating the history of the Boeing 787 seat switches in the cockpit following a preliminary report.
  • It hopes to find another pathway for compensation for passengers.

The aviation lawyer advising passengers on the Latam flight that rapidly dropped over the Tasman Sea in March says he is talking to 30 people about making claims against Latam Airlines.

Fifty people were treated by ambulance staff at Auckland Airport when flight LA800 from Sydney to Auckland went from cruising at 41,000 feet to suddenly dropping to 40,692 ft on March 11.

“Some of them have serious injuries, some of them have psychological injuries only. They were terrified, not just from the incident but the remainder of the flight,” director of Carter Capner Law Peter Carter told Stuff Travel.

The Directorate General of Civil Aeronautics of Chile’s preliminary report into the incident stated it had proven, ‘The seat on the left side of the cockpit, with the captain in position, began an involuntary movement forward’.

The report ruled out weather or a lack of turbulence playing a part in the uncontrolled dive.

Carter told Stuff Travel in a statement that in light of the report, the company was investigating the history of cockpit seat switch controls on 787 Dreamliner aircraft, including warnings issued by Boeing about the seat controls in 2017 and again after the March 11, 2024 accident.

Five days after the rapid descent the airline manufacturer told operators of all Boeing 787 to apply adhesives to the pilot seat movement switch caps to prevent them from coming loose.

Carter said: “If there’s a potential liability on the part of a manufacturer, it means there is a a different avenue of compensation available that will assist some passengers.

“So that would give them an option outside of that Montreal Convention to make a claim.”

Carter said the photos of the pilot’s and first officer’s seats that are included in the preliminary report reveal a significant difference in the resting position of the seat switch covers.

“While the cover on the back of the first-officer’s seat sits flush with the seat back, the cover to the pilot’s seat switch does not.”

The report did not comment on the different positions except to say that investigations are ongoing.

Carter said that the incomplete closure when at rest of the pilot’s seat switch cover, raises the possibility of the switch being activated when the cover was inadvertently depressed.

However while this may explain the “involuntary movement” of the pilot’s seat, Carter said further questions remain unanswered.

“What part did maintenance, componentry or crew conduct play?

“How did the seat so violently affect the aircraft’s cruise?

“What measures were in place to prevent that happening?

“These are all questions that are important to discovering the cause of the accident and we must wait and see.”

Carter said he was aware of media stories stating that a crew member may have activated the switch by inadvertently pressing down on the seat switch cover resulting in the seat’s occupant pushing against the controls and forcing the aircraft into a dive, and agreed this was definitely a possibility.

“The report does not say as much but the photographs depicting the cockpit seat switch covers suggest this as a likely factor.”

“We are monitoring developments in the Chilean Aviation Authority investigation and are in the course of advising clients in Chile, Brazil, New Zealand, Australia, USA and Colombia on an individual basis,” Carter explained.

He said his firm has “started to open a dialogue” with Latam and expected to hear more over the next couple of days.

“We’re not in discussions yet. We were hoping to get to that stage very shortly.“