Qantas Pilot Taps Wrong Data Into iPad, Causes Tail to Strike Tarmac

16th Nov 2015

After an investigation as to what led a Qantas jet flying from Sydney to Darwin to hit the tarmac with its tail during landing, safety aviation authorities in Australia came to the conclusion that the incident was caused by pilot entering wrong data into his iPad.

The incident in question happened on 1st August last year and was the result of the plane's pilot and copilot entering that the plane was 1o tonnes lighter than it actually was. They have indicated that the plane's takeoff weight was 66,400kg, but it was actually 76,400kg.

The cabin crew realized something is amiss when one of them reported hearing a squeaky sound when the jet was reaching cruise level. They suspected tailstrike and contacted maintenance support immediately, but could not confirm that there was a strike.

After successfully flying the plane and landing it at Darwin Airport, the captain examined the jet and found that some of the paint had been scratched from the protective tailskid, a report from the Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) says.

A 14-page report from ATSB stated among other things:

"The tailstrike was the result of two independent and inadvertent data entry errors in calculating the take-off performance data. As a result, the take-off weight used was 10 tonnes lower than the actual weight. This resulted in the take-off speeds and engine thrust setting calculated and used for the take-off being too low. As a result, when the aircraft was rotated, it overpitched and contacted the runway."

The ATSB report also stated:

"Data input errors can occur irrespective of pilot experience, operator, aircraft type, location or take-off performance calculation method. The application of correct operating data is a foundational and critical element of flight safety, but errors in the calculation, entry and checking of data are not uncommon"

Following this incident, Qantas has improved its pre-flight processes and pilots' operating manual.