Safety authorities say two separate mistakes by Qantas pilots tapping information into a work iPad led to the tail of a jet carrying 152 people to hit the tarmac as it took off from Sydney, headed for Darwin.
The incident occurred on August 1, 2014 after the captain and his co-pilot wrongly entered information saying the plane was 10 tonnes lighter than it actually was, according to a report from the Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB).
The pilots first realised something may have been wrong when a cabin crew member reported hearing a squeak when the aircraft was climbing to cruise level.
A tailstrike was suspected and maintenance support was contacted, but no indication was found to confirm the strike had occurred.
The flight continued to Darwin and landed normally.
But once the plane had landed, the captain inspected the craft and noticed paint had scraped off the protective tailskid, indicating the plane’s tail had contacted the ground during take-off, the ATSB report released today stated.
The ATSB found the captain and his first officer had tapped the wrong information into their on-board performance calculation tool, which was on a company iPad.
They had indicated the plane’s takeoff weight was 66,400kg, whereas it was actually 76,400kg.
“The tailstrike was the result of two independent and inadvertent data entry errors in calculating the take-off performance data,” the ATSB report stated.
“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 14-page report stated.