Aviation safety investigations & reports

Loading issue involving a Boeing 737, VH-VZO at Canberra Airport, ACT on 9 May 2014

Investigation number:
Status: Completed
Investigation completed


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On 9 May 2014, a Qantas Boeing 737 aircraft, registered VH-VZO and, operating a flight from Canberra, Australian Capital Territory, to Perth, Western Australia, was prepared for departure. On board the aircraft were the crew and 150 passengers, including a group of 87 primary school children. The group of children was seated together at the rear of the cabin and all had been assigned the standard adult weight of 87 kg during check-in.

The captain and first officer conducted the pre-flight checks and waited some time for the final load sheet to be delivered. The load sheet stated the take-off weight as 76,800 kg and the stabiliser trim figure as 5.5 units.

During take-off, the aircraft appeared nose-heavy. To rotate the aircraft and lift off from the runway, the captain found that significant back pressure was required. Conscious of the potential threat of striking the aircraft tail on the runway if too much back pressure was applied to the controls, the captain maintained steady back pressure to ease the aircraft into the air. The aircraft exceeded the calculated take-off safety speed (V2) by about 25 kt. The aircraft climbed at a higher initial climb speed than normal, which resulted in a slightly reduced climb gradient, but the crew did not receive any terrain or other warnings.

The crew did not experience any further issues during the flight. It was subsequently determined that the final load sheet overstated the aircraft take-off weight by about 3.5 to 5 tonnes and the stabiliser trim was out about 1 unit.

Determining accurate weight and balance is required for all aircraft prior to flight. Use of a trim setting that is inappropriate for the aircraft’s actual weight and balance may adversely affect the aircraft’s controllability at any stage of flight.


Aviation Short Investigations Bulletin - Issue 34

Download Final Report
[Download  PDF: 170KB]
Alternate: [Download  DOCX: 302KB]
General details
Date: 09 May 2014   Investigation status: Completed  
Time: 2245 EST   Investigation level: Short - click for an explanation of investigation levels  
Location   (show map): Canberra Airport    
State: Australian Capital Territory   Occurrence type: Loading related  
Release date: 03 September 2014   Occurrence category: Incident  
Report status: Final   Highest injury level: None  

Aircraft details

Aircraft details
Aircraft manufacturer The Boeing Company  
Aircraft model 737-838  
Aircraft registration VH-VZO  
Serial number 34191  
Operator Qantas  
Type of operation Air Transport High Capacity  
Sector Jet  
Damage to aircraft Nil  
Departure point Canberra, ACT  
Destination Perth, WA  
Last update 14 November 2018