Aviation safety investigations & reports

Tailstrike involving Airbus A320, VH-VGF, at Melbourne Airport, Victoria on 11 May 2016

Investigation number:
Status: Completed
Investigation completed

Final Report

Download final report
[Download  PDF: 1.06MB]

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.

Download final report
[Download  PDF: 1.06MB]

The occurrence

Safety analysis


Sources and submissions


To download, click the link, then right-click and select Save As.

Copyright in material obtained from other agencies, private individuals or organisations, belongs to those agencies, individuals or organisations and should be credited accordingly.

General details
Date: 11 May 2016   Investigation status: Completed  
Time: 14:49 EST   Investigation level: Defined - click for an explanation of investigation levels  
Location   (show map): Melbourne Airport    
State: Victoria   Occurrence type: Ground strike  
Release date: 04 September 2017   Occurrence category: Serious Incident  
Report status: Final   Highest injury level: None  

Aircraft details

Aircraft details
Aircraft manufacturer Airbus  
Aircraft model A320-232  
Aircraft registration VH-VGF  
Serial number 4497  
Operator Jetstar Airways  
Type of operation Air Transport High Capacity  
Sector Jet  
Damage to aircraft Minor  
Departure point Melbourne, Vic.  
Destination Hobart, Tas.  
Last update 14 November 2018