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Last updated: 19 June 2019
Status:Final
Date:Sunday 25 August 1996
Time:07:10
Type:Silhouette image of generic L101 model; specific model in this crash may look slightly different
Lockheed L-1011 TriStar 100
Operator:Trans World Airlines - TWA
Registration: N31031
C/n / msn: 1115
First flight: 1975
Total airframe hrs:3425
Crew:Fatalities: 0 / Occupants: 12
Passengers:Fatalities: 0 / Occupants: 250
Total:Fatalities: 0 / Occupants: 262
Aircraft damage: Substantial
Aircraft fate: Repaired
Location:New York-John F. Kennedy International Airport, NY (JFK) (   United States of America)
Phase: Landing (LDG)
Nature:Domestic Scheduled Passenger
Departure airport:Las Vegas-McCarran International Airport, NV (LAS/KLAS), United States of America
Destination airport:New York-John F. Kennedy International Airport, NY (JFK/KJFK), United States of America
Flightnumber:TW778
Narrative:
Trans World Airlines (TWA), flight 778 was substantially damaged when the tail struck the runway, while landing at New York-John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK). The 3 flight crewmembers, 9 flight attendants, and 250 passengers were not injured. Instrument meteorological conditions prevailed at the time of the accident. The flight departed Las Vegas, Nevada (LAS), at 03:10. The first officer was the flying pilot and performed the takeoff.
The departure and en route phases of the flight were uneventful. Descending towards New York-JFK Airport the crew were planning an approach and landing on runway 04R. The air traffic controller reported that visibility was rapidly decreasing to 1000, which was below the aircraft minima. The controller then cleared the flight for an approach to runway 04L. While on the approach to runway 4L, attempts to engage the auto-throttles were unsuccessful, and the captain told the first officer to fly the approach using manual throttles. The captain reported that when the first officer requested the ILS 4L approach plate, he replied, "just fly the approach it is near VFR."
According to TWA manuals, the correct altimeter bug setting for a Category II approach to runway 4R would be 112 feet, and for a Category I approach to 4L would be 212 feet.
At 07:08, the captain contacted the JFK control tower and stated that they were on the localizer for runway 4 left. The JFK local controller replied, "TWA seven seventy eight Kennedy number one wind calm runway four left cleared to land RVR more than six thousand rollout one thousand six hundred."
The first officer stated that at 50 feet above the ground (AGL), the autopilot began to flare the airplane, and he retarded the throttles. He said that it, "looked a little high." About that time, the stick shaker activated. The captain noticed the airspeed was 120 knots, and that the altitude was about 30 feet AGL. He captain pushed the throttles forward and the airplane touched down hard. The captain then took control of the airplane, closed the throttles, initiated reverse thrust, and made a normal rollout.
A witness reported that he was at the approach end of runway 4L at the time of occurrence, at taxiway KILO, about 100 yards from the touchdown point. He stated that the airplane hit on the tail first and then the tires. The touchdown point was shorter than normal, and he heard a bang at touchdown.

Probable Cause:

PROBABLE CAUSE: "Failure of the flight crew to complete the published checklist and to adequately cross-check the actions of each other, which resulted in their failure to detect that the leading edge slats had not extended and led to the aircraft's tail contacting the runway during the computer-driven, auto-land flare for landing. Factors related to the accident were: the manufacturer's inadequate inspection procedures for the slat drive system; and the operator's inadequate checklist, which did not include having the flight engineer monitor the double needle slat gauge."

Accident investigation:
cover
Investigating agency: NTSB
Status: Investigation completed
Duration: 1 year and 7 months
Accident number: NYC96FA174
Download report: Summary report

Classification:
Tailstrike

Sources:
» NTSB


Follow-up / safety actions

NTSB issued 2 Safety Recommendations

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Map
This map shows the airport of departure and the intended destination of the flight. The line between the airports does not display the exact flight path.
Distance from Las Vegas-McCarran International Airport, NV to New York-John F. Kennedy International Airport, NY as the crow flies is 3585 km (2241 miles).

This information is not presented as the Flight Safety Foundation or the Aviation Safety Network’s opinion as to the cause of the accident. It is preliminary and is based on the facts as they are known at this time.
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