Auckland Airport tail-strike after pilot not told of wind change
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Auckland Airport tail-strike after pilot not told of wind change

A Virgin Australia plane scraped its tail on an Auckland Airport runway because the first officer failed to communicate a change in wind speed to the pilot, a safety investigation has found.

The report on the investigation, led by the Australian Transport Safety Bureau, stated that the Boeing 737-800 took off from Auckland bound for Rarotonga about 5.15pm on January 17.

The plane was forced to return to Auckland Airport after the incident.

The plane was forced to return to Auckland Airport after the incident. Credit:File photo

Two flight crew members, four cabin crew members and 135 passengers were on board.

As the main wheels left the ground, the flight crew felt a bump from the rear of the aircraft.

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The cabin crew reported hearing a very loud noise from the rear of the aircraft.

The captain contacted air traffic control, informed them of the suspected tail-strike, requested a runway inspection and asked for the tower's observations of the take-off.

Tail-strike is the term used for when the tail of an aircraft hits the ground. It commonly occurs when the aircraft's angle of departure is too steep but can also happen during landing.

The aircraft returned to Auckland Airport.

Analysis of the flight data determined that, as the aircraft accelerated for take-off, the speed of the headwind dropped.

However, the change in air speed was reportedly not identified and called out by the first officer monitoring the flight, as required in the flight crew training manual.

An engineering inspection confirmed that the aircraft had sustained a tail-strike during the take-off. The damage was limited to a scratch and the aircraft was determined to be serviceable.

Nobody was injured.

The report commended the flight crew and said the crew made good use of resources and were proactive in assessing and resolving the situation.

A safe outcome was achieved through the crew's use of effective communication and by following practised failure management procedures, the report said.

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