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Final Report

Summary

What happened

On 11 May 2016, an Airbus A320-232, registered VH-VGF (VGF) and operated by Jetstar Airways Pty Ltd was taking off on runway 27 at Melbourne Airport, Victoria. The flight crew consisted of a training captain in the left seat, a cadet pilot in the right seat and a safety pilot, who was also the first officer, in the jump-seat. This was the cadet pilot’s first takeoff as pilot flying. During rotation, the tail of the aircraft contacted the runway surface.

After takeoff, the cadet pilot realised that the pitch rate during rotation was higher than normal and discussed this with the captain. During the climb, the cabin crew discussed hearing an unusual noise during the takeoff rotation with the captain. Due to the higher than normal rotation rate and the noise heard by the cabin crew, the captain elected to stop the climb and return to Melbourne. The first officer swapped seats with the cadet pilot and the aircraft landed uneventfully on runway 27.

What the ATSB found

The ATSB found that during rotation, the cadet pilot applied a larger than normal sidestick pitch input resulting in a higher than normal pitch rate. The tail of the aircraft contacted the runway surface resulting in damage to the auxiliary power unit (APU) diverter and APU drain mast. While airborne, the crew did not specifically advise air traffic control (ATC) of the possibility that a tail strike had occurred during takeoff.

What's been done as a result

The cadet pilot undertook additional training and assessment before returning to flight duties. Soon after the event, the operator circulated a newsletter to their A320 flight crew highlighting the need to inform ATC of a suspected tail strike or any potential failure resulting in damage/debris.

Safety message

Good communication from the cabin crew alerted the flight crew that a tail strike may have occurred. The climb was stopped and a timely decision to return to Melbourne was taken which minimised the potential risk from damage caused by a tail strike.

It is important to notify ATC of a possible tail strike as soon as operationally suitable. When a potential tail strike has been reported, ATC restricts operations on the affected runway and arranges that a runway inspection is carried out to identify any runway damage or aircraft debris.

The occurrence

Safety analysis

Findings

Sources and submissions

 
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