Today the Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) is releasing
its Preliminary Factual report into the tail strike involving
Airbus A340-500, A6-ERG, during takeoff at Melbourne Airport at
approximately 10:31 PM on the evening of 20 March 2009. The
aircraft was being operated on a scheduled passenger flight from
Melbourne to Dubai in the United Arab Emirates.
It is important to note that the information contained in the
preliminary factual report, as the name suggests, is limited to
preliminary factual information that has been established in the
initial investigation of the accident. Caution should be exercised
as there is the possibility that new evidence may become available
that alters the circumstances as depicted in the report. Analysis
of the factual information and findings as to the factors that
contributed to the accident are subject to ongoing work and will be
included in the final report.
The ATSB investigation, assisted by a number of other
organisations and agencies, including the United Arab Emirates
General Civil Aviation Authority (GCAA), the French Bureau
d'Enquetes et d'Analyses (BEA), Emirates and Airbus, has determined
that during the take-off roll on runway 16, the captain called for
the first officer to rotate (lift off). However, when the aircraft
was slow to respond, the captain commanded and applied maximum
take-off thrust (TOGA). The aircraft's tail struck the runway and
the aircraft lifted off shortly afterwards. During the take-off,
the aircraft's tail contacted the ground beyond the end of the
runway and a number of airport landing aids came into contact with
After becoming airborne, the flight crew received a cockpit
message that a tail strike had occurred and so they contacted Air
Traffic Control (ATC) and requested a return to Melbourne. The
aircraft was radar vectored by ATC over Port Philip Bay to dump
fuel to reduce the aircraft's weight for landing. While reviewing
the aircraft's performance documentation in preparation for
landing, the crew noticed that an incorrect weight had been
inadvertently entered into the laptop when completing the take-off
performance calculation prior to departure. The performance
calculations were based on a take-off weight that was 100 tonnes
below the actual take-off weight of the aircraft.
The result of that incorrect take-off weight was to produce a
thrust setting and take-off reference speeds that were lower than
those required for the aircraft's actual weight. During the return
to land at Melbourne, a cabin crew member reported smoke in the
cabin. The aircraft subsequently landed safely at 11:36 PM and was
able to be taxied to the terminal where the passengers were
disembarked. There were no reported injuries.
Damage to the aircraft included abraded skin to the rear, lower
fuselage and damage to the rear pressure bulkhead. There was also
damage to a fixed approach light, an instrument landing system
(ILS) monitor antenna and the ILS localiser antenna.
The aircraft was fitted with a Flight Data Recorder (FDR),
Cockpit Voice Recorder (CVR) and a Digital Aircraft Condition
Monitoring System Recorder (DAR). The FDR was dislodged from its
mounting in the rear of the aircraft during the tail strike and
only recorded data up to that point. The CVR and DAR recorded data
for the entire flight.
The investigation is continuing and will examine:
human performance and organisational risk controls
computer-based flight performance planning, including the
effectiveness of the human interface of computer based planning
reduced power takeoffs, including the associated risks and how
they are managed.
The aircraft operator has informed the ATSB that based on their
internal investigation, the following areas are under review:
fleet technical and procedures
hardware and software technology.
The investigation is ongoing and the ATSB continues to work
closely with representatives from the UAE GCAA, French BEA,
Emirates and Airbus. While the investigation is likely to take some
months, should any critical safety issues emerge that require
urgent attention, the ATSB will immediately bring such issues to
the attention of the relevant authorities who are best placed to
take prompt action to address those issues.
Media contact: 1800 020 616