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Tail-strike after bounced landing damaged Jet2 737

Portuguese investigators have detailed a bounced landing at Funchal in which a Jet2 Boeing 737-800 was substantially damaged by a tail-strike.

The inquiry states that an “excessive” nose-up input on the control column after the bounce – during which the aircraft travelled about 300m at a height of 8ft – resulted in a sharp nose-up attitude of 9.15°.

Portuguese investigation authority GPIAA adds that the manual deployment of speedbrakes caused a loss of lift.

It states that the aircraft subsequently struck the runway with a force of 2.15g, at a pitch attitude sufficient to scrape its tail. Inspection revealed damage to the 737’s aft fuselage including bent struts, cracks in stringers, and deformation from frictional abrasion.

Funchal airport is subjected to turbulent winds, and the aircraft (G-GDFC) had been conducting an approach to runway 05 in such conditions on 17 February 2014.

GPIAA says the approach was flown manually from around 1,200ft, but that it deviated from the glidepath, and was below it some 15s before touchdown.

During the last few moments of the final approach the aircraft encountered varying tailwind and crosswind components, and its descent rate reduced and increased with commanded thrust. It experienced oscillations as the control column was turned up to 50° right and 65° left.

GPIAA says nose-down inputs caused the descent rate to increase to 1,000ft/min before a nose-up input reduced this to 150ft/min. But then a nose-down input lasting some 4s, combined with a thrust reduction and a downdraft of 10ft/s resulted in the descent rate rising to 1,500ft/min as the jet passed 220ft.

This was initially limited to 750ft/min with nose-up input, but a subsequent variation in headwind and more nose-down input caused the descent rate to reach 1,100ft/min at 35ft.

After flaring, the aircraft touched down at a sink rate of 350ft/min with a 1.86g impact, and a pitch of about 6°.

Cockpit-voice recorder information reveals that the normal landing checklist had not been carried out during the approach. The speedbrakes were not armed, as required by this checklist, and did not deploy after the initial runway contact.

The aircraft consequently bounced and, once in the air, its speedbrakes were deployed manually, while nose-up column input was increased.

As a result of the loss of lift from the speedbrakes, the aircraft landed heavily – about 5s after the initial contact – at a pitch attitude high enough to allow the tail to strike the runway, causing minor injuries to two members of the cabin crew, before the 737 rolled out.

GPIAA points out that the aircraft had deviated from the stabilised approach profile, and indicates that the crew ought to have executed a go-around, and that a go-around should have been considered after the initial bounce.