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Accident description
Last updated: 21 October 2017
Status:Final
Date:Sunday 18 September 2005
Time:18:12
Type:Silhouette image of generic A321 model; specific model in this crash may look slightly different
Airbus A321-231
Operator:Spirit Airlines
Registration: N583NK
C/n / msn: 1195
First flight:
Total airframe hrs:16473
Crew:Fatalities: 0 / Occupants: 6
Passengers:Fatalities: 0 / Occupants: 191
Total:Fatalities: 0 / Occupants: 197
Airplane damage: Substantial
Airplane fate: Repaired
Location:Fort Lauderdale International Airport, FL (FLL) (   United States of America)
Phase: Landing (LDG)
Nature:Domestic Scheduled Passenger
Departure airport:New York-La Guardia Airport, NY (LGA/KLGA), United States of America
Destination airport:Fort Lauderdale International Airport, FL (FLL/KFLL), United States of America
Flightnumber:171
Narrative:
An Airbus A321, N583NK, operated by Spirit Airlines as flight 171, experienced a tail strike upon landing at Fort Lauderdale International Airport (FLL), Florida. The flight was en route to FLL from La Guardia International Airport in New York. The tail strike resulted in substantial damage to the lower rear fuselage of the airplane. There were no injuries to the two pilots, four flight attendants or 191 passengers.
The first officer was the flying pilot. The flight to Fort Lauderdale was uneventful. The pilots received periodic ATIS reports for FLL and the first officer noted that the wind gust speeds slowly diminished to a steady state wind condition while en route. Upon approach, the flight descended to 7000 feet agl while on a downwind leg for runway 9L. Full spoilers were deployed to enhance the descent rate. The flight was cleared to 4000 feet and asked to slow to 210 knots. As the approach continued, the aircraft was fully configured for landing about one mile from the touchdown zone. At about 1000 feet, the first officer disconnected the autopilot. He noted that there was no excessive rate of descent, no large changes in airspeed, no evidence of wind shear, and no GPWS warnings. As the aircraft passed over Interstate Highway 95, the first officer noted a little turbulence.
As the airplane crossed the runway threshold at an altitude of about 50 feet, the first officer recalled that "it just literally felt like we lost inertia." The captain, on the other hand, stated that the flare was initiated too late and was incomplete. The first officer stated that at some point during the flare, he lowered the nose a little bit and the aircraft touched down firmly and bounced.
The first officer stated that, following the bounce, he again lowered the nose to prevent a tail strike upon second touchdown. The captain stated that as the nose of the aircraft was lowered, he may have pulled back on his side stick controller slightly to prevent the nose gear from striking the runway at too great a descent rate. After the second touch down, the auto brakes activated at the medium setting and the aircraft remained close to the centerline of the runway. During rollout, a flight deck annunciation of a "flap/slat lock" condition sounded. Taxi to the gate was uneventful except that the flight crew did not retract the flaps because of the flap/slat annunciation.

Data from the flight data recorder (FDR) revealed that two seconds before the initial touchdown, the pitch attitude was about one degree nose up but increased to 6.5 degrees nose up at touchdown. About 2 seconds later, the pitch attitude increased to a maximum of about 10.3 degrees nose up. According to Airbus, the pitch attitude at which a tail strike will occur with the gear struts compressed is 9.7 degrees nose up, and 11.7 degrees nose up with the gear struts extended.
FDR data also indicated that inputs to the first officer's side stick controller were made from about 2.5 seconds prior to the first touchdown until about 1.5 seconds after the second touchdown. In addition, inputs were also being made to the captain's side stick controller from about 1.5 seconds prior to the first touchdown until about 0.5 seconds after the second touchdown.
Airspeed for the first touchdown was about 140 knots and bled off to about 130 knots for the second touchdown. Bank angle peaked at 2 degrees right during the bounce. The vertical acceleration was about 2.85 g for the first touchdown and 2.0 g for the second touchdown.

The aircraft sustained damage to the lower fuselage between stations 3630 and 3901, stringers 42L and 42R. One frame was severed at station 3736 and one frame was buckled and cracked at station 3683. A buckled shear tie was also found at station 3630. The aircraft skin was buckled inward and exhibited three abraded breaches at station 3683.

Probable Cause:

Following a bounced landing, the pilot in command activated his sidestick controller while the first officer was in control of the airplane, which subsequently resulted in the overcontrol of pitch and a tailstrike. Contributing to the circumstances of this accident were the pilot-in-command's failure to properly activate his sidestick takeover push button prior to his remedial action, and the operator's insufficient emphasis on bounced landing recovery techniques and tailstrike avoidance procedures.

Accident investigation:
cover
Investigating agency: NTSB
Status: Investigation completed
Duration: 1 year and 5 months
Accident number: DCA05MA099
Download report: Summary report

Classification:
Tailstrike

Sources:
» Soviet Transports


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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 New York-La Guardia Airport, NY to Fort Lauderdale International Airport, FL as the crow flies is 1723 km (1077 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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