Investigators say a low approach speed, exacerbated by windshear, caused an Air Atlanta Icelandic Boeing 747-200 carrying 446 people to suffer a severe tailstrike while landing at the UK's Teesside International airport in October last year.

The tail struck the runway just before the main landing gear, severely damaging the fuselage along a length of 8.5m (28ft) and leaving a 17m scrape on the runway. The aircraft had slowed to 12kt (22km/h) below its Vref approach speed of 140kt just before touchdown. The crew were trying to limit the stopping distance in wet conditions.

"While the approach had generally been flown slower than the intended approach speed down to a height of 200ft, below that height the approach became destabilised and the aircraft deviated significantly below the safe approach speed and glidepath," says the UK Air Accidents Investigation Branch. The nose-up pitch reached about 11.5° at touchdown. Boeing's type operations manual warns that tailstrike can occur at a pitch of 10-12¡ if airspeed decreases to 10-15kt below Vref before touchdown.

Source: Flight International