A SingaporeAir 777-300ER, a heavier version of the jet involved
A SingaporeAir 777-300ER, a heavier version of the jet involved

It seems premature, if not ultimately wrong, to criticise Singapore Airlines for continuing a flight from Melbourne to Singapore on Sunday October 9 after the tower saw an apparent tail strike by the 777-300 during a takeoff  in the wind storm that did so much damage to Victoria.

The facts are set out by the technical air safety site Aviation Herald.

The jet’s tail skid device struck the runway, not the fuselage of the airliner, and is specifically designed and certified to protect against damage in incidents like this.

It is backed up by sensors which would tell the pilots if in fact the tail skid had been destroyed and damage had been done to the actual and pressurised body of the airliner.

Had that happened, or had it become apparent that the flight wasn’t pressurising normally as it gained in altitude, the jet would have turned back.

The incident is being investigated by the ATSB, which has a duty to inquire into all such notifications.

It appears on initial reports that all of the parties to the incident did the right thing. The tower reported a possible tail strike, the runway was closed in case there was debris that needed to be cleared, the pilots were able to confirm no fuselage strike had occurred, and the flight continued because the tail strike protection built into the 777 (and found in various forms in other jets) had worked as intended.

Real tail strikes are potentially very serious safety risks. That’s why airport towers are vigilant, and why tail strike protection has been included in airliners in general for a very long time.

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