An investigation into a Singapore flight during turbulence found that a sharp drop in altitude caused injuries – Reuters

SINGAPORE (Reuters) – Preliminary findings from an investigation published on Wednesday into a Singapore Airlines (OTC 🙂 plane that went into severe turbulence last week showed a rapid change in the force of gravity and a drop in altitude of 54 meters causing injuries.

A 73-year-old passenger died of a suspected heart attack and dozens of people were injured after Flight SQ321 from London to Singapore encountered what the airline described as sudden, extreme turbulence while flying over Myanmar.

The May 21 flight, a Boeing (NYSE:) 777-300ER aircraft carrying 211 passengers and 18 crew members, was diverted to Bangkok for an emergency landing after the aircraft experienced turbulence that scattered passengers and crew throughout the cabin, and some hit the ceiling.

“There was a rapid change in G (gravitational force) in the aircraft… This likely caused passengers who were not wearing seat belts to become airborne,” the Department of Transportation said in a statement about the Transportation Safety Investigation Office report.

“The vertical acceleration went from negative 1.5 G to positive 1.5 G in 4 seconds. This probably caused the passengers in the air to fall,” he said, citing information obtained from flight data and cockpit voice recorders.

“The rapid changes in G over a period of 4.6 seconds caused an altitude drop of 178 feet (54 m), from 37,362 feet to 37,184 feet. This sequence of events likely resulted in injuries to the crew and passengers,” he added.


Shocked passengers described scenes of chaos in the minutes after the incident, with turbulence sending people flying upwards and into the aisle, leaving many with bleeding and head wounds.

Photos of the cabin showed cuts in overhead panels, oxygen masks and panels hanging from the ceiling, and luggage strewn about. The passenger said several people’s heads hit the lights above the seats and damaged the panels.

Singapore Airlines said it had reviewed the report and was fully cooperating with the investigation.

“We want to support our passengers and crew members who were on board SQ321 that day, as well as their families and loved ones,” Wednesday’s statement said.

On Tuesday evening, the airline said 45 people on board the plane were still in Bangkok, including 28 passengers receiving treatment in hospital.

According to Thai medical officials, those initially hospitalized included patients with spinal cord injuries and some with brain and skull injuries.

The preliminary report indicates that after encountering minor vibrations in flight, there was an unintentional increase in altitude, causing the autopilot to flip the plane down. The pilots experienced an increase in speed and responded by applying the speed brakes.

©Reuters.  FILE PHOTO: The interior of Singapore Airlines flight SQ321 is shown after an emergency landing at Suvarnabhumi International Airport in Bangkok, Thailand, May 21, 2024. REUTERS/Stringer/File Photo

“While controlling the airspeed… the pilot was heard calling out that the seat belt warning was on,” it said.

The investigative team included Singaporean investigators, Boeing representatives and U.S. officials from the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). Singapore’s transport ministry said an investigation was ongoing.