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ATSB: investigation update on A340 tailstrike accident
18 December 2009

The Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) released its Interim Factual report into the tailstrike involving Airbus A340-500 aircraft, registered A6-ERG, during takeoff at Melbourne Airport, Vic. on the evening of 20 March 2009. The aircraft was being operated on a scheduled passenger flight from Melbourne to Dubai in the United Arab Emirates.

The investigation has determined that the pre-flight take-off performance calculations were based on an incorrect take-off weight that was inadvertently entered into the aircraft’s portable flight planning computer by the flight crew. Subsequent crosschecks did not detect the incorrect entry and its effect on performance planning, and the resulting take-off speeds and engine thrust settings that were applied by the crew were insufficient for a normal takeoff.

As a result of this accident, the aircraft operator has undertaken a number of procedural, training and technical initiatives across its fleet and operations; with a view to minimising the risk of a recurrence. In addition, the aircraft manufacturer has released a modified version of its cockpit performance-planning tool and is developing a software package that automatically checks the consistency of the flight data being entered into the aircraft’s flight computers by flight crews.

The investigation has found a number of similar take-off performance-related incidents and accidents across a range of aircraft types, locations and operators around the world. As a result, the ATSB has initiated a safety research project to collate those events and examine the factors involved. The findings of that project will be released by the ATSB once completed.

Ongoing investigation effort will include the examination of:
* computer-based flight performance planning
* human performance and organisational risk controls
* reduced thrust takeoffs and the use of erroneous take-off performance data. (ATSB)