Sata A313 at Ponta Delgada on Mar 2nd 2013, tail strike on landing

Last Update: January 13, 2015 / 19:35:59 GMT/Zulu time

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Incident Facts

Date of incident
Mar 2, 2013


Aircraft Registration

Aircraft Type
Airbus A310-300

ICAO Type Designator

Portugal's GPIAA have released their final report concluding the probable causes of the accident were:

Primary cause

Inadequate recovery handling of a bounced firm landing (deviation from recommended flying pilot technique).

The following were considered as contributing factors:

- High sink rate prior to and during flare;

- Aircraft firm landing followed by a light bounce;

- Crew momentary unawareness of aircraft position (in the air) and intentional column pulling action, trying to smooth nose wheel contact with ground;

- The presence of a tailwind component during the flare phase above recommended 10kts limits;

- Aircraft’s center of gravity at a slightly backward position but this factor is of marginal contribution only;

- The decision to land on damp runway 30, with tailwind component marginal to the maximum permitted (10kts), instead of a circling to land to the actual runway (12) in use or the decision to discontinue the approach via a go-around procedure;

- A bounce recovery at night (with less visual references) characterized by taking place very close to the ground (less than 20 feet) hence allowing for a very short reaction time from the PF and little control effectiveness of the aircraft (throttle retarded and normal configuration to land);

- The existing take-off / landing certification standards, which were based on the at-tainment of the landing reference speeds, and flight crew training that was based on the monitoring of and response to those speeds, hindering crew to detect degraded landing speed and sink rate.

The GPIAA stated: "The occurrence was initially classified by GPIAA’s previous investigation team as an Incident; however, as the aircraft sustained substantial structural damage, the event was reclassified as an Accident. According to ICAO’s Annex 13 and to actual incurred damage the aircraft sustained substantial damage which adversely affected the structural strength, performance and flight characteristics and required major repair and replacement of the affected components."

The GPIAA reported the first officer (42, ATPL, 3,527 hours total, 2,789 hours on type) was pilot flying, the captain (59, ATPL, 15,200 hours total, 5,200 hours on type) was pilot monitoring.

The descent and approach was flown on autopilot, the aircraft captured localizer and glideslope of ILS runway 30 on both autopilots, landing mass was 103 tons at 29.56% MAC, Vref was 126 KIAS, the autothrust maintained Vapp of 132 KIAS in speed mode.

Descending through 286 feet AGL the autopilots were disconnected, the landing was flown manually with the assistance of the autothrust system and flight director.

The GPIAA wrote: "Below 20ft at a slightly high descent rate (2.25º) there was a short flare followed by a light bounce with spoilers extended. The ensuing aircraft´s natural aerodynamic tendency was an increase in the pitch attitude in conjunction with a pulling force exerted on the control column with a high pitch rate (3º/s) and increasing high pitch up attitude (up to 14.82º). This manoeuvre, most likely to avoid a hard nose wheel ground contact, made the tail strike the ground. By the time the main landing gear shock absorbers were fully com-pressed the aircraft’s pitch angle had exceeded the ground/ tail clearance of 13.2º."

There were no injuries amongst the 8 crew and 117 passengers, the aircraft however received substantial structural damage.

The GPIAA annotated that they were unable to collect data off the cockpit voice recorder, that had not been shut down after landing but continued to run erasing the 30 minute recording of the flight. The GPIAA was therefore unable to determine, who actually was at the controls during the approach or establish the condition of the pilots (e.g. yawning, ...).

According to the flight data recorder the approach was stabilized until descending through 80 feet AGL. Touch down occurred 9 seconds later at a vertical acceleration of +1.48G, 480 fpm sink rate, 6.7 degrees nose up, 127.5 KIAS, the aircraft bounced reaching a minimum of +0.97G and a maximum of +1.56G, ground spoilers extended, a large pitch up control input is recorded, the pitch attitude increase to 14.82 degrees nose up (tail strike limit at compressed gear struts at 13 degrees nose up), the tail impacted the runway surface on second touch down 3 seconds after first touch down.

In the last seconds of flight the flight data recorder recorded a tail wind component of 14.6 knots and left crosswind component of 15 knots.
Incident Facts

Date of incident
Mar 2, 2013


Aircraft Registration

Aircraft Type
Airbus A310-300

ICAO Type Designator

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