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ASN Wikibase Occurrence # 244878
Last updated: 30 November 2021
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Time:13:00 UTC
Type:Silhouette image of generic B789 model; specific model in this crash may look slightly different
Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner
Registration: VH-ZND
MSN: 63390/669
Fatalities:Fatalities: 0 / Occupants: 237
Other fatalities:0
Aircraft damage: Minor
Category:Serious incident
Location:London Heathrow Airport, Hounslow, Middlesex -   United Kingdom
Phase: Take off
Nature:Passenger - Scheduled
Departure airport:London-Heathrow Airport (LHR/EGLL)
Destination airport:Perth Airport, WA (PER/YPPH)
Investigating agency: AAIB
Qantas flight QF10, a Boeing 787-9, with 224 passengers and 13 crew, departed London-Heathrow Airport's runway 27R when the crew received indication the tail had contacted the runway surface. The crew stopped the climb at 6000 feet, entered a hold to dump fuel and returned to Heathrow for a safe landing on runway 27L about 55 minutes after departure.

On Nov 12th 2020 the AAIB released their bulletin concluding the probable cause of the serious incident was:

During conditions of strong, gusty winds, a high pitch rate near lift-off caused the tail strike prevention system to activate. The tail contact angle was reached, and the crew received an EICAS tail strike message.

The AAIB described the sequence of events:

Following a normal engine start and taxi, the aircraft was cleared for take off from Runway 27R with the surface wind reported as 220° at 28 knots gusting 44 knots. Acceleration was normal in the strong wind and, at VR of 172 KIAS, the PF initiated a rotation which was coincident with a strong gust. Shortly after becoming airborne, the EICAS tail strike message was displayed. The crew elected to hold to the southwest of Heathrow at 6,000 ft whilst they carried out relevant actions from the Quick Reference Handbook (QRH), which prevented aircraft pressurisation, so prepared to return to Heathrow. The aircraft was then radar-vectored for an approach to Runway 27L at Heathrow, where an overweight landing was made.

After landing, it was identified that the tip of the tail strike detection sensor had been abraded due to contact with the runway. No further damage was found.

The AAIB described the FDR data:

The data showed that during the take off run, there were airspeed fluctuations consistent with the gusty wind conditions. Upon reaching an airspeed of 160 KIAS, the airspeed rapidly increased to 175 KIAS, at which point the PF initiated the rotate. As the aircraft pitched up, the airspeed reduced to 172 KIAS, where it briefly stagnated. The PF had progressively moved the control column aft to 4° at which point the pitch rate was just over 2°/s; the maximum aft movement of the control column was 9.8°. The control column was then moved slightly forward to 3°, but the pitch rate increased to 3.2°/s. The airspeed then started to increase, which coincided with the PF pulling back on the control column whilst also moving the control wheel from 20° counter-clockwise (CC) to 33° CC. This caused the left spoilers to further deploy from 5° to 20°.

As the pitch attitude increased through 6.3° nose-up, the pitch rate was nearly 4°/s, and the calculated tail height above the runway was 4.5 ft. The aircraft’s tail strike prevention system then started to move the elevators, which reduced the pitch rate to just over 2°/s. The pitch attitude at takeoff was about 9.7° and the tail height indicated just less than 2 ft.

The aircraft manufacturer analysed the FDR and CPL data and stated:

‘The near tail contact was the result of a combination of factors including: high pitch rate close to lift-off, airspeed stagnation, and control wheel usage deploying spoilers on the left wing. The high pitch rate allowed pitch attitude to increase towards the tail contact attitude prior to airspeed reaching lift-off speed. The deployed spoilers on the left wing decreased lift and necessitated a higher pitch attitude for lift-off.’

The AAIB analysed:

"The aircraft was being operated within its weight, CG and wind limitations for the takeoff.

The weather conditions created strong gusting winds which, just before the point of rotation, rapidly increased the aircraft’s airspeed from160 KIAS to 175 KIAS. The initial pitch rate of 2°/s increased to 3.2°/s and then 4°/s, when the tail strike prevention system activated and reduced the pitch rate to 2°/s. The lateral control wheel inputs caused the left spoilers to deploy from 5° to 20°, decreasing the lift. The combined effect was that during rotation, an increase in aircraft pitch angle with the main landing gear wheels still on the runway, led to the tail contact angle of 9.7° being reached and the crew receiving an EICAS tail strike message.

Having been alerted to the tail contact by the EICAS message, the flight crew actioned the QRH and prevented the aircraft pressurising. After holding, the aircraft was flown to Heathrow in accordance with the checklist".


1. AAIB Final Report:

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



Photo of VH-ZND courtesy

Frankfurt am Main (EDDF / FRA / FRF)
10 October 2021; (c) Günter Schütze

Revision history:

13-Nov-2020 17:41 Dr. John Smith Added
15-Nov-2020 17:33 harro Updated [Source, Narrative, Accident report]
15-Nov-2020 17:33 harro Updated [Aircraft type]

Corrections or additions? ... Edit this accident description