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The Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) is releasing its Interim Factual report into the tailstrike involving Airbus A340-500 aircraft, registered A6-ERG, during takeoff at Melbourne Airport, Vic. 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. This report builds on the facts advised in the report that was released on 30 April 2009 (ISBN 978-1-921602-43-6, available at www.atsb.gov.au).

The investigation has determined that the pre-flight take-off performance calculations were based on an incorrect take-off weight that was inadvertently entered into the aircraft's portable flight planning computer by the flight crew. Subsequent crosschecks did not detect the incorrect entry and its effect on performance planning, and the resulting take-off speeds and engine thrust settings that were applied by the crew were insufficient for a normal takeoff.

As a result of this accident, the aircraft operator has undertaken a number of procedural, training and technical initiatives across its fleet and operations; with a view to minimising the risk of a recurrence. In addition, the aircraft manufacturer has released a modified version of its cockpit performance-planning tool and is developing a software package that automatically checks the consistency of the flight data being entered into the aircraft's flight computers by flight crews.

The investigation has found a number of similar take-off performance-related incidents and accidents across a range of aircraft types, locations and operators around the world. As a result, the ATSB has initiated a safety research project to collate those events and examine the factors involved. The findings of that project will be released by the ATSB once completed.

The ATSB continues to work closely with the United Arab Emirates General Civil Aviation Authority (GCAA), the French Bureau d'Enquetes et d'Analyses (BEA), the operator and aircraft manufacturer. Ongoing investigation effort will include the examination of:

  • computer-based flight performance planning
  • human performance and organisational risk controls
  • reduced thrust takeoffs and the use of erroneous take-off performance data.

The remainder of the investigation is likely to take some months. However, 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. In the interim, the ATSB has drawn this interim report to the attention of operators to remind them of the risks associated with calculating and entering take-off performance information.

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Last update 28 January 2014