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ASN Wikibase Occurrence # 217444
Last updated: 13 June 2021
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Time:17:20 LT
Type:Silhouette image of generic B738 model; specific model in this crash may look slightly different
Boeing 737-8FE (WL)
Owner/operator:Virgin Australia
Registration: VH-YIR
MSN: 39925/4712
Fatalities:Fatalities: 0 / Occupants: 141
Other fatalities:0
Aircraft damage: Minor
Location:Auckland International Airport (AKL/NZAA) -   New Zealand
Phase: Take off
Nature:Passenger - Scheduled
Departure airport:Auckland International Airport (AKL/NZAA)
Destination airport:Rarotonga Airport (RAR/NCRG)
Investigating agency: ATSB
A Boeing 737-800, operated by Virgin Australia Airlines, prepared to depart Auckland, New Zealand. The aircraft was operating scheduled passenger flight VA91 to Rarotonga, Cook Islands, with two flight crew, four cabin crewmembers and 135 passengers on board. Runway 05R was in use and the wind direction and strength was from 040° true at 25 knots gusting to 38 knots. The captain was the pilot flying (PF) and the first officer was the pilot monitoring (PM).
The flight crew prepared the take-off performance calculations and determined the take-off limit weight to be 76.7 t with an actual take-off weight of 75.0 t. The flight crew elected to use the 24,000 pound thrust rating for the reported weather conditions.
At about 1715, the PF commenced the take-off. During the take-off, the PF maintained a small amount of left aileron input for the crosswind. The aircraft accelerated to V1 and the automated V1 announcement sounded, shortly followed by the PM making the ‘rotate’ call at the rotation speed of 149 knots. During rotation, the PF felt a slight side-to-side movement of the aircraft’s tail, which he corrected with minor rudder input, and observed some fluctuation of the airspeed. The PF did not recall the PM announcing any variation in airspeed during the rotation. Just before the aircraft became airborne, the PF noticed the nose-up attitude of the aircraft was slightly higher than the target 8° pitch angle. The PM also recognised this and called out that the pitch attitude was high. As the main wheels left the ground, the flight crew felt a bump from the rear of the aircraft.
After the initial climb, the flight crew discussed the sequence of events and concluded that their observations were most likely the result of a tailstrike. The captain handed control of the aircraft to the first officer and called the cabin supervisor to verify their suspicion. The cabin crewmembers reported that there had been a very loud noise from the rear of the aircraft during take-off.
The captain then contacted air traffic control (ATC), informed them of the suspected tailstrike, requested a runway inspection and asked for the tower’s observations of the take-off.
The flight crew elected to stop the climb at 12,000 ft. Shortly after stopping the climb, ATC confirmed that the tower had not observed any abnormalities, and the runway inspection had identified no debris or damage to the runway.
The captain then called the Virgin ground operations duty manager to report the situation and seek input on whether an overweight landing be conducted or to continue a holding pattern to burn off fuel prior to return to Auckland. Subsequently, the captain elected to return to Auckland for an overweight landing. He then updated the cabin crew and made a passenger announcement advising of the intention to return to Auckland.
The aircraft returned to the airport where an overweight landing was conducted without further incident.
No persons were injured and the aircraft sustained minor damage in the incident.

ATSB Findings:
A decrease in the headwind component reduced the airspeed during rotation and extended the time required for VH-YIR to leave the runway, resulting in a reduced tail clearance and subsequent tailstrike.


Accident investigation:
Investigating agency: ATSB
Status: Investigation completed
Duration: 9 months
Download report: Final report


Photo of VH-YIR courtesy

Perth (YPPH / PER)
12 December 2020; (c) Kurt Finger

Revision history:

09-Nov-2018 09:20 harro Added

Corrections or additions? ... Edit this accident description