Virgin Australia B738 at Auckland on Jan 17th 2018, tail scrape on departure

Last Update: November 8, 2018 / 19:23:15 GMT/Zulu time

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Incident Facts

Date of incident
Jan 17, 2018


Flight number

Aircraft Registration

Aircraft Type
Boeing 737-800

ICAO Type Designator

Airport ICAO Code

A Virgin Australia Boeing 737-800, registration VH-YIR performing flight VA-91 from Auckland (New Zealand) to Rarotonga (Cook Islands), departed Auckland's runway 05R when the tail contacted the runway surface during rotation. The aircraft climbed to FL110, entered a hold while the crew was working the related checklists and returned to Auckland for a safe landing on runway 05R about 35 minutes after departure.

Australia's TSB reported the aircraft sustained minor damage when it struck its tail onto the runway surface during departure in Auckland. The occurrence was rated an incident, the ATSB opened an investigation.

The occurrence aircraft remained on the ground for about 12.5 hours, then resumed service.

On Nov 8th 2018 the ATSB released their final report concluding the probable cause of the incident was:

A decrease in the headwind component reduced the airspeed during rotation and extended the time required for VH-YIR to leave the runway, resulting in a reduced tail clearance and subsequent tailstrike.

The ATSB reported around the rotation of the aircraft a reduction of the IAS by 7 knots occurred followed by stagnation in airspeed while the speed over ground increased. This was the result of an 11 knots reduction of the head wind. The aircraft became airborne at a pitch angle of 10.55 degrees, the maximum pitch rate during rotation had been 3.5 degrees/second with an average of 2.4 degrees/second. The aircraft needed 6 seconds from initiation of rotation to becoming airborne.

The ATSB analysed:

Analysis of the flight data determined that, during rotation, as the aircraft continued to accelerate, a reduction in headwind resulted in an initial drop and then stagnation in airspeed until just after lift-off. The airspeed variations were reportedly not identified and called out by the PM, as required in the flight crew training manual. Stagnation in airspeed at rotation had a similar effect to that of rotating too early: reduced lift and an extended the take-off roll, as confirmed by the flight data. The continued rotation with the main landing gear remaining on the runway then resulted in a reduced tail clearance.

The flight crew training manual indicated that the recommended rate of rotation on take-off to achieve sufficient tail clearance is 2 to 3° per second, with a lift-off target attitude of 8°. The maintenance of take-off and initial climb performance is dependent on rotation at the correct airspeed and rate to the target attitude. Boeing data indicated that average rotation rates above 2.5° per second to 10° pitch attitude, impact tail clearance. Analysis of the flight data showed that the aircraft was rotating at an average of 2.4° per second up to lift-off, at a pitch attitude of 10.55°. While the average rotation rate was towards the upper end of the recommended limit, it was not likely to have reduced the available tail clearance. Similarly, the maximum rotation rate of 3.5° was not considered to have contributed to the tailstrike.

NZAA 170530Z AUTO 04025KT 9999 FEW027/// BKN049/// 22/17 Q1016 TEMPO 8000 SHRA=
NZAA 170500Z AUTO 04024G35KT 9999 FEW028/// BKN049/// BKN080/// 23/16 Q1016 TEMPO 8000 SHRA=
NZAA 170430Z AUTO 04024KT 9999 FEW028/// 23/16 Q1016 TEMPO 8000 SHRA=
NZAA 170400Z AUTO 04027G37KT 9999 BKN027/// BKN044/// 23/17 Q1016 TEMPO 8000 SHRA=
NZAA 170330Z AUTO 03025KT 9999 SCT029/// BKN048/// 23/17 Q1016 TEMPO 8000 SHRA=
NZAA 170300Z AUTO 03024KT 9999 SCT030/// OVC046/// 23/16 Q1016 TEMPO 8000 SHRA=
NZAA 170230Z AUTO 04027KT 9999 BKN030/// BKN036/// BKN045/// 24/16 Q1016 TEMPO 8000 SHRA=
NZAA 170200Z AUTO 04027KT 9999 BKN030/// BKN038/// 24/16 Q1016 TEMPO 8000 SHRA=
NZAA 170130Z AUTO 04025G35KT 9999 BKN030/// BKN035/// 24/16 Q1017 TEMPO 8000 SHRA=
NZAA 170100Z AUTO 04025G38KT 9999 BKN030/// BKN040/// 24/17 Q1016 TEMPO 8000 SHRA=
Aircraft Registration Data
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Airworthyness Category
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TCDS Ident. No.
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Maximum Take off Mass (MTOM) [kg]
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Main Owner
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Main Operator
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Incident Facts

Date of incident
Jan 17, 2018


Flight number

Aircraft Registration

Aircraft Type
Boeing 737-800

ICAO Type Designator

Airport ICAO Code

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