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Last updated: 7 August 2020
Status:Final
Date:Tuesday 29 July 2014
Time:22:40
Type:Silhouette image of generic B752 model; specific model in this crash may look slightly different
Boeing 757-222
Operator:United Airlines
Registration: N553UA
C/n / msn: 25277/434
First flight: 1992-02-25 (22 years 5 months)
Total airframe hrs:72854
Engines: 2 Pratt & Whitney PW2037
Crew:Fatalities: 0 / Occupants: 6
Passengers:Fatalities: 0 / Occupants: 168
Total:Fatalities: 0 / Occupants: 174
Aircraft damage: Substantial
Aircraft fate: Written off (damaged beyond repair)
Location:San Diego International Airport, CA (SAN) (   United States of America)
Phase: Landing (LDG)
Nature:Domestic Scheduled Passenger
Departure airport:Houston-George Bush Intercontinental Airport, TX (IAH/KIAH), United States of America
Destination airport:San Diego International Airport, CA (SAN/KSAN), United States of America
Flightnumber:UA345
Narrative:
United Airlines flight 345, a Boeing 757-222, N553UA, experienced a tailstrike while landing at the San Diego International Airport (SAN), San Diego, California, USA. There were no injuries to the 174 persons onboard. The airplane sustained substantial damage.
According to the operator, the first officer (FO) was the pilot flying and the captain was the pilot monitoring. The accident flight was the second flight of the day for both crew members. The climb, cruise, and descent portions of the flight were uneventful. The airplane was configured for a flaps 30 landing with the autopilot off for the visual approach to runway 27. The target airspeed for the landing was 130 knots, 5 knots above VREF.
An airplane performance study was completed based on the FDR data from the flight. The study showed the wind was constant during the final descent to the runway with about a 4-knot headwind component. At about 50 feet radio altitude, the FO began to gradually pull back on the column until the elevators deflected 12 degrees airplane nose up at touchdown. Touchdown occurred with a sink rate near 0, a pitch attitude of about 6 degrees and an airspeed of 120 knots (5 knots below VREF). After touchdown, thrust was commanded to idle and the speedbrakes were deployed. The FO then began to gradually release column backpressure; however, pitch attitude continued to increase towards the gear-struts-compressed tail strike pitch attitude. The airplane's pitch attitude eventually exceeded the gear struts compressed tail strike attitude of 10.5 degrees. The FO commanded reverse thrust as the tail strike occurred and then increased to maximum reverse thrust after derotation had occurred.
Published Flight Operations Technical Bulletins issued by the manufacturer in 1988 and 1990 instructed pilots to immediately lower the nose after touchdown (i.e. apply forward pressure) and warned pilots that bleeding off airspeed below VREF prior to touchdown will increase body attitude and thereby increase the likelihood of a tail strike. In this accident, touchdown occurred about 5 knots below VREF and the nose-up elevator remained for nearly 3.5 seconds, causing the aft fuselage to contact the runway.
Inspection of the airplane revealed substantial abrasion damage to two aft, lower skin panels spanning an area about 4 feet long by 1.5 feet wide. In addition, the forward and aft lower chords on the aft pressure bulkhead (APB) were deformed and the lower APB web was buckled.

Probable Cause:

Probable Cause: "The first officer's failure to maintain the correct airspeed and pitch attitude during landing that resulted in a tailstrike."

Accident investigation:
cover
Investigating agency: NTSB
Status: Investigation completed
Duration: 5 years and 11 months
Accident number: DCA14LA137
Download report: Final report

Classification:
Tailstrike
Runway mishap

Photos

photo of Boeing-757-222-N553UA
accident date: 29-07-2014
type: Boeing 757-222
registration: N553UA
 

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 Houston-George Bush Intercontinental Airport, TX to San Diego International Airport, CA as the crow flies is 2080 km (1300 miles).
Accident location: Approximate; accuracy within a few kilometers.

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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