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air safety

Feb 2, 2013

ATSB doesn't list Qantas tail strike, lists Virgin incident

A Qantas jet has a scary takeoff, kissing runway with tail, ATSB does nothing. A Virgin Australia jet has scary landing at Gold Coast, acquaplanes down runway, ATSB investigates. Huh!


In an election year it’s quite clear no-one in government or opposition really gives a damn about questionable standards in air safety investigations in this country.

And this is not about the we-are-safe piffle that comes out of both sides, which is part of the not-giving-a-damn ritual.

It is about the ATSB failing to list a tail strike by a Qantas 767 departing Brisbane airport on 31 January, but notifying an inquiry into a Virgin Australia wind shear and acquaplaning incident on landing at the Gold Coast airport in atrocious weather on 28 January.

Both incidents are referenced with more detail on the Aviation Herald site under its entries for 1 February.

In the Virgin Australia incident the pilot regained control of the 737 after it slid briefly out of control down the runway.  In the Qantas incident the detail in the Aviation Herald report suggests this was a minor, non damaging incident handled correctly by the airline.

Which while reassuring is beside the point. When any airliner makes contact with the runway with its tail during take off, that is, metal touches tarmac at significant velocity, it’s charter requires it to statistically record and notify of the incident, because statistics, patterns, and associations of various elements of flight is a key part of its role in support of air safety in Australia.

It says so in its own material.

For an organisation whose integrity and trustworthiness is up for attention  by a Senate Committee inquiry into its allegedly dishonest, deceitful and inappropriate final report into the Pel-Air crash of an air ambulance near Norfolk Island in 2009 leaving out a scary takeoff incident by one Australian airline while investigating a scary landing  by another isn’t right.

The short odds would be on the ATSB also investigating the Qantas incident, and blaming administrative lag for not listing it, which in itself, is unacceptable.


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4 thoughts on “ATSB doesn’t list Qantas tail strike, lists Virgin incident

  1. Frustrated Pilot

    Probably got something to do with the fact that the windshear and aquaplaning is a very serious incident with possible dire consequences whereas tail strikes are taken into account during the design process of an aircraft. That’s why aircraft have a bumper under the tail. A checklist is followed by the crew along with an engineering inspection after the event and if no damage is found, the ATSB won’t be involved.

  2. COTOS

    Good point, but tail strikes are not always a problem for that flight on the day of the incident, sometimes it is a flight much later that realises the damage, hence the bumpers, & i imagine the bumpers first got on there as a permanent feature when a new design pushed the margin of tail strikes vs change of geometry for more seats, either way i am sure eventually someone will find a way to damage the airframe or compromise the subsequent repair around a hardly used bumper. So i was hoping it would be included in the report rather than signing it off on design process; new aircraft 101.

  3. 777 Driver

    The 767-300 has a tail skid designed specifically to prevent damage in the event of a over rotation on takeoff. Keeping in mind tail clearance on takeoff is just a few feet, obviously the manufacturer could see the potential for this event (over millions of takeoff for that aircraft type) and designed to cater for it.
    This is a non event from a safety regulator investigation standpoint and the ATSB has it right here as Gold Coast “loss of control” event is far more serious.

  4. Mark Skinner

    Ben’s point is that the QF incident should have been listed according to the agency’s own criteria…not ignored.

    Such things go to the heart of risk management. For every industry there is a ratio of minor incidents to major. Knowing the frequency of the minor is a key to rational assessment of the likelihood of a major incident. This is a pretty standard approach to risk management.

    Furthermore, the incidence of tail strikes can tell the agency something about the standard of training of the pilots and “lack of flight crew experience”. (That is the opinion of Boeing btw). If that is not ATSB core business to know, then what is?


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