Austrian A321 at Manchester on Dec 23rd 2011, tail strike during go-around

Last Update: September 13, 2012 / 13:56:43 GMT/Zulu time

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Incident Facts

Date of incident
Dec 23, 2011


Aircraft Type
Airbus A321

ICAO Type Designator

The AAIB have released their bulletin discussing:

The final sequence of events which lead to the tail strike appears to have been started with the change of relative wind experienced just before landing. This enhanced the aircraftÂ’s performance and was probably the reason the co-pilot reduced thrust and applied a nose-down pitch input, at the same time as applying up to full lateral control inputs. The aircraftÂ’s engines had quickly reduced to near idle rpm so the aircraft continued to sink despite the subsequently increasing pitch attitude, which may have accounted for the pilotsÂ’ impression that the aircraft had been subject to a sudden downdraft.

The first officer was pilot flying, the captain (42, ATPL, 13,182 hours total, 5,534 hours on type) was pilot monitoring.

The aircraft had been vectored for an ILS approach to Manchester's runway 23R, the speed had been reduced early to maintain separation with other traffic. While intercepting the localizer the crew noticed a crosswind of about 40 knots although air traffic control reported the surface winds from 320 degrees at 12 knots. While the intercept and first stages of final descent were smooth, the approach became turbulent around 1500 feet AGL.

In compliance with standard operating procedures the first officer therefore disconnected the autothrust system and the commander increased the Vapp by 5 knots.

Just below 1000 feet AGL the first officer disengaged the autopilot, too. Below 400 feet AGL the first officer sensed increasing difficulty to control the aircraft and needed to apply full sidestick deflection on occasion. By about 100 feet AGL the situation had further worsened prompting the first officer to initiate a go-around a short while later. Takeoff/Go-around thrust was set and the first officer rotated the aircraft to 10 degrees nose up initially. Almost simultaneously the crew sensed a severe downdraft which caused the aircraft to sink and the main gear to contact the runway.

The aircraft became airborne again and commenced a standard go-around, then positioned for another approach with Vapp now increased by 10 knots. The crew encountered similiar conditions as during the first approach with sudden loss of airspeed by 10 to 15 knots late into the final approach, however, the first officer managed a safe landing.

A following post flight inspection by the commander revealed evidence of a tail strike.

Manchester ATC had initiated a "weather stand by" prior to the arrival, the weather stand by being a local procedure to deploy emergency services into their stand by positions if weather conditions deteriorated to a point as to render the landing of an aircraft "more difficult".

Following the report of a tailstrike by the crew runway operations were suspended and runway inspection revealed evidence of a tail strike on the runway abeam taxiway JA, too.

The flight data recorder confirmed the crew's recollection of the sequence of events including large sidestick deflection during the latter stages of the final approach, mainly roll inputs below 170 feet AGL. At 70 feet AGL both thrust levers were retarded towards the idle position and both engines slowed towards idle, and a large nose down input was recorded. Shortly after both thrust levers were fully advanced, however due to their lag the engines were still accelerating when the aircraft contacted the runway. The rate of descent (according to radio altitude) remained almost constant during the last 200 feet of descent. The aircraft touched down at a nose up attitude of 9.7 degrees with 0.7 degrees of bank to the right.

Data analysis revealed the aircraft flew most of the approach with a cross wind component of 4 knots, the wind component however changed to a 8 knots head wind at about 100 feet AGL.

The aircraft manufacturer confirmed the scenario/damage was consistent with a tail strike even though a nose up attitude of 11.2 degrees was necessary with the gear struts fully extended. The manufacturer concluded the tail strike must have occurred during touch down. The manufacturer further concluded the loss of energy due to the environmental changes combined with the slow acceleration of engines made runway contact unavoidable.
Incident Facts

Date of incident
Dec 23, 2011


Aircraft Type
Airbus A321

ICAO Type Designator

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