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JAL 777 struck tail during late go-around: inquiry

Japanese investigators believe that a Boeing 777-200 struck its tail after the captain ordered a go-around despite the first officer’s having already initiated reverse thrust.

The captain of the Japan Airlines aircraft believed the aircraft had bounced and was floating after the touchdown at Tokyo Haneda on 31 March 2012.

Japan Transport Safety Board indicates that this perception arose from fluctuations in vertical acceleration as the 777 settled, having landed initially on its right main gear.

While the first officer, who was flying, had activated the speedbrakes and raised the reverse-thrust levers after touchdown, the inquiry says this was probably unnoticed by the captain because he was looking out of the cockpit window to confirm the aircraft’s attitude.

The captain, in his belief that the aircraft had bounced, acted to avoid a hard landing by ordering a go-around. This decision ran counter to the standard procedure which dictates that a go-around should not be attempted once reverse-thrust has been initiated.

“It is somewhat likely that the first officer had controlled for a touchdown as normal,” says the JTSB, adding that the go-around call would have been “unexpected”.

The first officer tried to activate the go-around switch but the thrust levers could not immediately be advanced because of the reverse-thrust selection.

JTSB says the captain took control of the aircraft and, instead of rejecting the go-around, cancelled the reverse thrust and advanced the levers to take-off power. The aircraft had been down for 10s and had slowed to 108kt.

Responsibilities of the two pilots, particularly the monitoring of the 777’s nose-up attitude, became “momentarily unclear”, says the inquiry. The engines took time to spool up, it adds, and the aircraft’s nose had risen “rapidly” as it decelerated after touchdown.

Six seconds after the thrust levers were advanced a tail-strike warning was issued.

JTSB says the aircraft sustained “substantial” damage to its lower aft fuselage but became airborne again and returned to land some 27min later. There were no injuries among the 308 passengers and crew.

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