AIANZ President Ashok Poduval speaks to 1News after LATAM Airlines incident

Dozens of people required medical treatment after landing in Auckland International Airport yesterday afternoon on a LATAM Airlines flight.

LATAM Airlines released a statement saying; “Flight LA800, operating the Sydney to Auckland route today, had a technical event during the flight which caused a strong movement,” adding that the plane landed as scheduled in Auckland on Monday.

The statement didn’t elaborate on what the ‘technical event’ was, and Aviation Industry Association President, Ashok Poduval, was asked to comment on likely causes.

LATAM Airlines aircraft similar to the flight which landed at Auckland Airport (source: istock.com)

Two possible causes – as spoken to 1News Reporters

Ashok Poduval, head of the School of Aviation at Massey University and a former commercial airline pilot, said his first thoughts were the incident was probably unexpected turbulence or a malfunction in in the autopilot system.

“Turbulence is when there is no sign of bad weather and due to wind currents which may be quite strong, like the jet stream, etc. Turbulance can cause a sudden drop in altitude or severe turbulence, suddenly, which would cause injuries.”

He said sudden turbulence might mean the “fasten seatbelts” sign may not be on passengers.

“[Passengers and cabin crew] may not be seated or strapped in… people may be walking around the cabin.”

The other possible explanation could be a technical problem “when an autopilot either disengages or suddenly pushes an aircraft which is cruising along peacefully downwards or upwards”, Poduval said.

But he said injuries in such case were quite rare. “It’s a technical malfunction and it doesn’t happen very often but it could have happened.

Watch: AIANZ President Ashok Poduval speaks to 1News about the LATAM Airlines incident on Monday

He said an instance of this was sometimes known as “the startle effect” for the way it could occur when a pilot had been sitting for hours without anything unusual happening.

In such an occurrence, Poduval said people who were not strapped in or walking around might be flung up to the roof of the cabin.

“You could have the cabin bins overhead opening and landing on passengers. People who are even seated might be flung up and then land badly which is why most airlines recommend that when seated at least have your seatbelt loosely strapped.

Poduval said the country where the aircraft was registered would usually carry out any investigation, generally “supported by the airline manufacturer of course because it’s in the manufacturers interest to determine what happened”.

Read the full 1News article here

Ashok is also included in further articles at Newshub, NewstalkZB and NZ Herald Premium.

Aviation Industry Association Chief Executive Simon Wallace was also quoted on NewstalkZB’s Morning and Afternoon Edition bulletins this week. Listen below.