Jetstar A320 at Melbourne on May 11th 2016, tail strike on takeoff

Last Update: September 4, 2017 / 11:13:55 GMT/Zulu time

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Incident Facts

Date of incident
May 11, 2016


Flight number

Aircraft Registration

Aircraft Type
Airbus A320

ICAO Type Designator

A Jetstar Airbus A320-200, registration VH-VGF performing flight JQ-711 from Melbourne,VI to Hobart,TA (Australia), departed Melbourne's runway 27 at 14:48L (04:48Z) and was climbing out of Melbourne when the crew stopped the climb at about 22,500 feet due to the possibility of a tail strike on departure. The aircraft returned to Melbourne for a safe landing on runway 27 about 35 minutes after departure.

The Australian TSB reported on May 13th 2016, that the tail did contact the runway surface on departure from runway 27, the occurrence was rated a serious incident and is being investigated by the ATSB.

The airline reported cabin crew heard a noise during rotation for takeoff and informed the flight deck, the captain subsequently decided to return to Melbourne as a precaution. Maintenance found evidence of a light tail strike on the underside of the fuselage, no structural damage was identified and the aircraft is likely to return to service on May 13th.

The aircraft was still on the ground 59 hours later, already morning May 14th 2016 in Australia.

On Sep 4th 2017 the ATSB released their final report concluding the probable cause of the serious incident was:

Contributing factor

- The cadet pilot applied a larger than normal sidestick pitch input to initiate rotation. This resulted in a high rotation rate during the take-off and the aircraft’s tail contacted the runway.

Other factor

- The potential tail strike was not adequately communicated to Melbourne air traffic control. This delayed checking the runway for aircraft debris.

The ATSB reported the crew consisted of a training captain (ATPL), a first officer in line training and under supervision (CPL) on his fifth sector in a A320 after completing CPL, theory for ATPL, A320 ground course and simulator sessions obtaining the A320 type rating, and another first officer as safety pilot in the observer seat. The first officer had been acting as pilot monitoring on the previous 4 sectors.

The ATSB reported the first officer realized that the rate of rotation was higher than normal and was discussing this with the captain, there were no abnormal indications. Cabin crew informed the flight deck about unusual noises during takeoff rotation, the captain therefore decided to stop the climb and return to Melbourne. A subsequent inspection revealed damage to the APU air inlet and APU drain mast consistent with contact of the tail with the runway surface.

The ATSB reported the FDR revealed the takeoff rotation was significantly faster than normal and stopped at +16 degrees of pitch.

The ATSB reported that the captain informed ATC about an engineering issue as cause for the return and that operations were normal. Only after the inspection after landing the captain advised ATC of the tail strike.

Standard operations by ATC would have been upon receiving a report of a potential tail strike to restrict operations on the runway and initiate a runway inspection.

The ATSB analysed: "The rotation was initiated at the correct speed and there was no evidence of any anomalies with the aircraft weight and balance, trim setting or any aircraft system. During rotation, the cadet pilot applied a larger than normal pitch input (3/4 backstick versus the recommended 1/2 to 2/3 of backstick travel) resulting in an excessive pitch rate during rotation (9 deg/sec versus a target of 3 deg/sec). Following the incident, the cadet pilot undertook additional training and assessment before returning to flight duties."

The ATSB analysed with respect to risks:

The independent nature of the sidesticks meant that the training captain could not directly monitor the cadet pilot’s sidestick input. The resultant pitch rate that occurred during the take-off could be monitored and was observed by the captain as being faster than normal. Despite this, the entire rotation period was brief and there was little time for the Captain to respond to an inappropriate pitch input.

The ATSB reported: "Following this incident, the operator circulated a newsletter to their A320 flight crew highlighting the need to inform ATC of a suspected tail strike or any failure resulting in damage/debris."

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YMML 110500Z 33011KT 9999 FEW030 BKN045 BKN180 16/07 Q1010 FM0500 MOD/SEV TURB BLW 5000FT
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YMML 110330Z 34011KT 9999 FEW044 SCT066 BKN120 15/05 Q1011 FM0330 32020G32KT 9999 SCT035 BKN060 FM0330 MOD TURB BLW 5000FT TILL 0400 FM0400 MOD/SEV TURB BLW 5000FT
YMML 110300Z 30016KT 9999 FEW044 SCT120 BKN170 15/05 Q1012 FM0330 30020G32KT 9999 SCT035 BKN060 FM0300 MOD TURB BLW 5000FT TILL 0400 FM0400 MOD/SEV TURB BLW 5000FT
YMML 110230Z 30015KT 9999 FEW028 SCT044 BKN170 15/05 Q1012 FM0230 30020G32KT 9999 SCT035 BKN060 FM0230 MOD TURB BLW 5000FT TILL 0400 FM0400 MOD/SEV TURB BLW 5000FT
YMML 110200Z 32013KT 9999 FEW028 SCT040 BKN170 15/06 Q1013 FM0200 32020G32KT 9999 SCT035 BKN060 FM0200 MOD TURB BLW 5000FT TILL 0400 FM0400 MOD/SEV TURB BLW 5000FT
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Aircraft Registration Data
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Incident Facts

Date of incident
May 11, 2016


Flight number

Aircraft Registration

Aircraft Type
Airbus A320

ICAO Type Designator

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