UK investigators have determined that a Flybe Bombardier Q400 tail-strike at Newcastle occurred after its throttle was reduced to an inappropriately low setting on approach.
The aircraft (G-ECOJ) sank as a result of the reduction in power and the first officer, who was flying, instinctively pulled the aircraft's nose up to compensate instead of increasing thrust.
Air Accidents Investigation Branch analysis found that the first officer was "relatively inexperienced" on the turboprop type, having flown 49 sectors on Q400s. He had completed conversion training to the aircraft two months before the incident.
The inquiry states that the Q400, arriving from Southampton on 9 January, had been conducting an ILS approach in darkness to Newcastle's runway 25.
It was stable and configured with the 'flap 15' setting, in line with the carrier's procedures for runways over 2,000m in length.
The crew disengaged the autopilot at a height of 200ft. But at 100ft the engine power setting was reduced to 8%, far below the 15% recommended.
Airspeed bled from 124kt to 113kt and the first officer lifted the nose, increasing pitch from 3.7° to 7.6°. The inquiry says this was "probably an instinctive reaction" to counter the sink.
Although the captain asked the first officer to increase power, this intervention was "not effective", says the inquiry, and the captain's subsequent decision to advance the power levers himself, just 8ft above the runway, came too late to prevent the tail-strike.
Investigators state that, with the selected configuration, the Q400 will typically touch down with a 5° nose-up attitude. The Q400's fuselage length lowers its tolerance to excessive pitch on landing, and tail-strike will occur at attitudes of 6.9-7.5°.
Source: Cirium Dashboard