Qantas tailstrike due to incorrect data entered on iPad

Details have been released of a tailstrike that occurred when two Qantas pilots entered incorrect data into their iPads.

Qantas is predicting the arrival of non-stop flights between the Uk and Australia by 2017

Tailstrike when wrong data entered into iPad. Image by Aero Icarus / CC BY-SA 2.0

The incident occurred during take off on a flight from Sydney to Darwin on August 1 last year. Investigations found the tailstrike, which occurs when the rear of the plane makes contact with the ground during take off, was caused by an incorrect weight calculation entered into the pilots’ iPads. Prior to take off, the captain and his co-pilot calculated the weight of the plane to be 10 tonnes lighter than it actually was.

According to the Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) report, this miscalculation “resulted in the take-off speeds and engine thrust setting calculated and used for the take-off being too low. As a result, when the aircraft was rotated, it over pitched and contacted the runway."

However, there was no indication anything was amiss during take off. The first sign pilots had that there was anything wrong came as the plane was reaching altitude, when a cabin crew member reported hearing a squeak. Maintenance support was contacted as pilots attempted to identify the cause of the noise. Though a tailstrike was suspected, there was no indication on board that it had occurred. The Boeing 737-838, carrying 152 passengers and crew, proceeded to Darwin and landed safely.

It was after landing, during an inspection of the plane, that the captain noticed paint had been scraped off the tailskid, indicating a tailstrike had occurred.

Qantas, which consistently tops airline safety lists, has since reviewed its pre-flight procedures to include additional checks. In 2012, Qantas became the first airline to roll out iPads to pilots for use in standard operations across all phases of flight, including take off and landing.

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