On 1 November 2009, a Bombardier DHC8-400 being operated by UK regional airline Flybe on a scheduled passenger flight from Newcastle to London Gatwick made a hard landing at an abnormally high pitch angle at destination in normal day visibility and significant structural damage to the aft lower airframe resulted. No occupants were injured and the aircraft was taxied in to parking without further event.
An Investigation was carried out by the UK AAIB. The surface wind in the Meteorological Terminal Air Report (METAR) issued one minute after the touchdown included a surface wind of 170 /13 knots gusting to 23 knots.
It was noted that at about 40 ft agl the indicated airspeed had increased to 17 knots above the calculated Reference Speed (Vref). The aircraft commander, as PF, had responded to this by reducing torque to Flight Idle after which the speed decreased to Vref and the rate of descent initially remained constant at about the normal rate of 600 fpm. The aural radio altimeter calls counted down from 50 ft, in 10 ft increments at a rate which the flight crew considered normal. At 25 ft agl, the aircraft commander reported having become aware of an increasing sink rate and responded by leaving the power at idle and initiating a flare which increased the aircraft pitch from about 2.5° to 7.5° in three seconds. This flare failed to arrest the rate of descent and the aircraft touched down at a recorded 2.4g on both main gear and on the aft fuselage.
The investigation noted that “the fuselage lower skin was extensively damaged by abrasion over a region that straddled the centreline and extended some 2.25 metres longitudinally, and 0.75 metres laterally. Associated deformation of fuselage frames was also evident and the skin was fully penetrated by abrasion in the same area.”
It was noted that a tail strike can result in debris being left on the runway which may cause damage to subsequent landing or departing aircraft and that this potential hazard could be avoided by a runway inspection provided that ATC are informed, which did not occur in this case.
It was concluded that the cause of the tail strike was the failure of the PF to effectively counter the excessive rate of descent near touchdown. It was noted that there was a considerable amount of relevant guidance on tail strike avoidance in the Company Operations Manual, which, had it been followed, would have prevented the conditions for a tail strike developing.
The Final Report of the Investigation was published on 8 July 2010 and may be seen in full at SKYbrary bookshelf: AAIB Bulletin: 7/2010 EW/C2009/11/01
It contained one Safety Recommendation which was that:
- Bombardier Aerospace modify the DHC 8-Q-400 (Aeroplane Operating Manual), “Touched Runway” Emergency check list to include the action “advise ATC” (2010-028)