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Accident description
Last updated: 23 October 2017
Status:Final
Date:Monday 20 October 2008
Time:12:42
Type:Silhouette image of generic A320 model; specific model in this crash may look slightly different
Airbus A320-232
Operator:United Airlines
Registration: N448UA
C/n / msn: 842
First flight:
Total airframe hrs:34617
Crew:Fatalities: 0 / Occupants: 7
Passengers:Fatalities: 0 / Occupants: 156
Total:Fatalities: 0 / Occupants: 163
Airplane damage: Substantial
Airplane fate: Repaired
Location:Phoenix-Sky Harbor International Airport, AZ (PHX) (   United States of America)
Phase: Landing (LDG)
Nature:Domestic Scheduled Passenger
Departure airport:Denver International Airport, CO (DEN/KDEN), United States of America
Destination airport:Phoenix-Sky Harbor International Airport, AZ (PHX/KPHX), United States of America
Flightnumber:UA1449
Narrative:
A United Airlines Airbus A320 operating as a regularly scheduled passenger flight number US1449 from Denver, Colorado, to Phoenix, Arizona, experienced a tailstrike on landing on runway 8 at Phoenix-Sky Harbor International Airport (PHX). The airplane experienced substantial damage to the underbelly and aft bulkhead area. There were no injuries among the crew of 7 or the 156 passengers.
The accident crew departed Denver International Airport (DEN), Colorado, about 11:47 mst, bound for Phoenix. The first officer was the flying pilot. According to interviews, during the flight the accident crew discussed the recent change in United Airlines standard operating procedure to the use of flaps 3 for landing.
During the descent, the first officer conducted an approach briefing for landing on runway 8. The brief was for a visual approach to runway 8 using flaps 3 for landing. Weather conditions at the airport were VMC with wind reported to be from the southeast at approximately 4-6 knots. About the time the air traffic controller issued a turn for the base leg, the first officer stated that he turned off the auto pilot and auto thrust.
As the aircraft descended below 100 feet above the ground (AGL), the airspeed began to slow below the calculated V approach speed (VAPP) of 141 knots, and the aircraft pitch attitude was increasing. According to the pilots, the approach was stabilized, on speed and on glide path, until about 100 feet above field elevation. At about 100 feet above the field elevation, the first officer pulled the thrust levers to idle. Shortly thereafter, the airspeed decreased to about 10 knots below VAPP. The first officer stated that he felt a "sense of ground rush" during the flare at about 70 feet and he increased back pressure on the side-stick to arrest the sink rate.
After landing, the cabin crew notified the flight deck crew that they believed they had hit the tail on landing. During his post flight inspection, the first officer confirmed that this had occurred. The aircraft suffered skin damage for a distance of 6 frames beginning at the aft pressure bulkhead (frame 70) and moving forward. In addition, damage was found to the pressure bulkhead web and structural stiffeners.

Probable Cause:

The failure of the flightcrew to arrest an excessive sink rate during the flare for landing.

Accident investigation:
cover
Investigating agency: NTSB
Status: Investigation completed
Duration: 2 years and 2 months
Accident number: DCA09FA004
Download report: Summary report

Classification:
Tailstrike


Photos

photo of Airbus A320-232 N448UA
FDR general parameters from 2000 ft to landing
photo of Airbus A320-232 N448UA
FDR landing parameters from 2000 ft to landing
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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 Denver International Airport, CO to Phoenix-Sky Harbor International Airport, AZ as the crow flies is 962 km (601 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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