Final Report


What happened

On 5 November 2013 and 11 December 2013, two Dash 8-400 aircraft, registered VH-QOT and VH-QOS, were being operated by QantasLink on scheduled passenger flights from Roma to Brisbane and Brisbane to Roma, Queensland respectively. Both flights were crewed by a training captain, operating as pilot monitoring, and a trainee first officer, operating as pilot flying.

Although the two approaches utilised different flap settings, both were conducted using a propeller setting of 1,020 RPM. The early, initial and final stages of the approaches were unremarkable. Both training captains reported that as the aircraft approached the flare, they thought that the respective trainees had handled the approach well.

During landing, both trainees arrested the descent rate by raising the nose of the aircraft. In both cases the maximum pitch attitude was exceeded and the aircraft’s tail contacted the runway. Each aircraft sustained impact and abrasion damage to the fuselage skin and buckling of internal structures in the area of the tail strike sensor.

What the ATSB found

The ATSB’s found that in the last 50 ft of both approaches to land, the pilot flying did not manage engine power commensurate with their aircraft's declining energy state. This induced the pilot to pitch up in each case to control the descent rate and exceed the pitch angle limits.

The ATSB also identified that varied emphasis on the appropriate handling technique and pitch attitude awareness during first officer training did not assure consistent application of an appropriate landing technique in the Dash 8-400 aircraft.

Finally, the use of 15° of landing flap resulted in a margin of 1.9° between the nominal landing flare pitch angle and the tail strike angle. That compared with a margin of 3.9° when using 35° of flap and a typical margin for other transport aircraft of over 5°.

What's been done as a result

In response to these occurrences, QantasLink issued several flight operational bulletins that provided additional information and guidance to assist pilots manage engine power and pitch attitude during landing. In addition, the training provided to training captains has been modified and specific training for pitch monitoring and landing recovery has been incorporated into the cyclic simulator training and proficiency program.

QantasLink flight operations analysis for the 12 months following the introduction of the above safety actions showed a significant reduction in the number of high pitch attitude landing events.

Safety message

Dash 8 pilots are reminded of the inherent risk of tail strike during landing. While all Dash 8-type aircraft have pitch limitations, they are most restrictive on the -400 and -300 variants. Pitch attitudes in excess of 6° must be avoided.

Reducing engine power to idle during the landing flare can cause a sudden and unexpected increase in drag and reduction of lift. An excessive rate of descent during landing must be corrected by applying power. The temptation to control the decent rate by pitching up must be avoided.


The occurrences


Safety analysis


Safety issues and actions

Sources and submissions