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Excessive sidestick input led to Jetstar A320 tailstrike

A cadet pilot flying a Jetstar Airbus A320 applied excessive force to the aircraft’s sidestick controller as it rotated, resulting in the aircraft’s tail striking the runway as it took off from Melbourne Tullamarine airport on 11 May 2016.

The Australian Transport Safety Bureau’s (ATSB) final report on the incident says that the tailstrike resulted in damage to the aircraft's auxiliary power unit (APU) diverter and APU drain mast.

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Australian Transport Safety Bureau

The A320, registered VH-VGF, was operating a flight to Hobart, and was being flown by the cadet pilot in the right-hand seat, with a training captain in the left-hand seat. A safety pilot, who was also the first officer, was in the jumpseat.

After the aircraft took off, the cadet pilot realised that the pitch rate during rotation was higher than usual, and discussed it with the captain. The cabin crew also reported hearing an unusual noise during take-off to the captain.

“Due to the higher than normal rotation rate and the noise heard by the cabin crew, the captain elected to stop the climb and return to Melbourne. The first officer swapped seats with the cadet pilot and the aircraft landed uneventfully on runway 27,” the ATSB says.

Once the aircraft was on the ground, an engineering inspection confirmed that a tailstrike had occurred, and the captain notified air traffic control.

In its analysis, the ATSB highlighted that the captain had only advised air traffic controllers that they were returning to Melbourne due to an “engineering issue”, rather than advising them of a potential tailstrike.

“Following this incident, the operator circulated a newsletter to their A320 flight crew highlighting the need to inform ATC of a suspected tail strike or any failure resulting in damage/debris,” it adds.

In a statement provided to FlightGlobal, Jetstar says that there was no structural damage to the aircraft and it has operated since without further incident.

“The pilot involved was taken off flying duties while he underwent additional simulator training and assessments and after successfully passing this training returned to flying and has operated since without further incident," it adds.

Updated to add comment from Jetstar.

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