CAUSES AND PREVENTION
Takeoffs. A number of factors increase the chance of a tail strike during takeoff, including:
- Mistrimmed stabilizer.
- Improper rotation techniques.
- Improper use of the flight director.
- Rotation prior to Vr :
- Early rotation: Too aggressive, misinterpretation.
- Early rotation: Incorrect takeoff speeds.
- Early rotations: Especially when there is a significant difference between the V1 and Vr.
- Excessive initial pitch attitude.
- Strong gusty winds and/or strong crosswinds may cause loss of airspeed and/or a requirement for lateral flight control inputs that can deploy some flight spoilers, reducing the amount of lift on the airplane.
These factors can be mitigated by using proper takeoff techniques (refer to your operations manual for specific model information), including:
- Normal takeoff rotation technique. For current production airplanes, the feel pressure should be the same as long as the CG/weight and balance are done correctly. For most cases, there is no reason to be aggressive during rotation.
- Rotating at the appropriate time. Rotating early means less lift and less aft tail clearance.
- Rotating at the proper rate. Do not rotate at an excessive rate or to an excessive attitude.
- Using correct takeoff V speeds. Be sure to adjust for actual thrust used and be familiar with quick reference handbook and airplane operations manual procedures for takeoff speed calculations.
- Consider use of greater flap setting to provide additional tail clearance on some models.
- Use the proper amount of aileron to maintain wings level on takeoff roll.
Landings. Tail strikes on landing generally cause more damage than takeoff tail strikes because the tail may strike the runway before the main gear, damaging the aft pressure bulkhead. These factors increase the chance of a tail strike during landing:
- Unstabilized approach.
- Holding airplane off the runway in the flare.
- Mishandling of crosswinds.
- Overrotation during go-around.
Techniques that can reduce the chance of a tail strike during landing include:
- Maintain an airspeed of Vref + 5 knot minimum to start of flare and fly the approach at the “specified target airspeed.”
- The airplane should be in trim at start of flare; do not trim in the flare or after touchdown.
- Do not “hold the airplane off” in an attempt to make an excessively smooth landing.
- Use only the appropriate amount of rudder/aileron during crosswind approaches and landing.
- Immediately after main landing gear touchdown, release the back pressure on the control wheel and fly the nose wheel onto the runway.
- Do not allow pitch attitude to increase after touchdown.
- Do not attempt to use aerodynamic braking by holding the nose off the ground.
Sometimes the best option for the approach is a go-around. It is important that the culture within the airline promote go-arounds when needed without punitive measures.