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Final Report

Summary

On 9 October 2016, a Singapore Airlines Boeing 777-312 aircraft, registered 9V-SYG, was operating a scheduled passenger service from Melbourne Airport, Victoria, to Singapore with two flight crew, 16 cabin crew and 261 passengers.

Wind conditions at Melbourne Airport were 325°at 25 kt, gusting to a maximum of 45 kt, and turbulence had been reported in the control zone.

During the take-off run, as rotation was initiated, the headwind component decreased resulting in the aircraft’s airspeed reducing below rotation speed. This airspeed reduction prolonged the time to lift-off, allowing the pitch attitude to exceed the tail skid contact attitude.

After take-off, air traffic control contacted the flight crew alerting them of a ‘possible tail strike’. With no TAIL STRIKE caution message displayed on the engine indication and crew alerting system the flight crew carried out the unannunciated tail strike non-normal checklist and determined the aircraft structural integrity was intact.

An inspection of the runway identified contact marks, consistent with a tail skid contact. Air traffic control advised the flight crew that ‘only superficial concrete debris were found’ during the runway inspection.

The flight crew discussed all the available information and considered their options. With the aircraft pressurisation system indicating no abnormalities the captain made the decision to continue to the destination. The remainder of the flight was uneventful. On arrival in Singapore engineers conducted a post-incident inspection of the aircraft. Damage was evident to the tail skid system indicating that a moderate energy skid contact had occurred during take-off.

This incident serves as a reminder to Boeing pilots that guidance material contained in manuals outside the FCOM should be considered in all aircraft operations. The use of a higher thrust setting as recommended by the Boeing FCTM would have reduced the required runway length and minimised the airplane exposure to gusty conditions during rotation, lift-off and initial climb.

While taking the above message into consideration, this incident provides an excellent example of flight crew managing a non-normal operation. The flight crew demonstrated effective crew resource management and decision making resulting in the flight being able to continue to destination without compromising safety.

Aviation Short Investigations Bulletin - Issue 59

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