Accident Airbus A320-231 C-GTDK,
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Date:Monday 16 June 2003
Type:Silhouette image of generic A320 model; specific model in this crash may look slightly different    
Airbus A320-231
Registration: C-GTDK
MSN: 338
Year of manufacture:1992
Engine model:IAE V2500-A1
Fatalities:Fatalities: 0 / Occupants: 185
Aircraft damage: Substantial, repaired
Location:Bristol Airport (BRS) -   United Kingdom
Phase: Landing
Nature:Passenger - Non-Scheduled/charter/Air Taxi
Departure airport:Kerkyra-I. Kapodistrias Airport (CFU/LGKR)
Destination airport:Bristol Airport (BRS/EGGD)
Investigating agency: AAIB
Confidence Rating: Accident investigation report completed and information captured
The aircraft operated on a return service from Bristol, U.K. to Corfu, Greece. The commander was the handling pilot on the first sector and, having briefed the co-pilot, he carried out the landing at Corfu's Kerkyra Airport with the autopilot, flight director and autothrust disengaged in order to demonstrate the correct technique for landing in this configuration.
This approach and landing were uneventful and after a normal turnaround the aircraft departed for the return sector to Bristol, this time with the co-pilot acting as the handling pilot.
On nearing London the pilots were able to check Bristol's ATIS (Automated Terminal Information Service), which notified the runway in use as runway 09 with a light crosswind from the south-east.
The pilots asked London ATC if it would be possible to land on runway 27 instead as this would give them a straight in approach. After a short interval London ATC informed them that they were clear to self-position for an approach to runway 27. Accordingly they briefed for an approach and landing to runway 27, to be performed with the autopilot, autothrust and flight directors disengaged. The flight management system was programmed using the wind given on the ATIS of 160°/07 kt. They were then cleared to descend and when the aircraft was at about FL250 the commander suggested the copilot disengage the autopilot and autothrust in order to give himself time to settle in to flying the aircraft in this configuration. The co-pilot disengaged the autopilot and autothrust, at which point the commander turned off both flight directors.
Air traffic control of the aircraft was transferred to Bristol with the aircraft level at FL110, at a range of about 65 nm from the airport. On hand over Bristol ATC apologised but informed the crew that due to another aircraft positioning for a landing on runway 09 (the active runway), the aircraft would now be vectored for a landing on runway 09. This was acknowledged and the captain reprogrammed the flight management system for a landing on that runway.
The flight followed ATC vectors until the aircraft was established on the runway 09 ILS localiser.
The co-pilot continued to fly solely by reference to the instruments and flew the ILS approach whilst the commander configured the aircraft for landing. Although the co-pilot followed the ILS localiser indications, the commander was aware that the aircraft had in fact become slightly displaced to the right of the runway centreline. On making the standard call when the aircraft was 100 feet above the decision altitude of 814 feet (and at a height equivalent to 300 feet above touchdown elevation), the commander immediately instructed the co-pilot to look up in order to allow more time to correct the aircraft's track back onto the centreline. This the co-pilot did and both pilots estimate the aircraft was wings-level and on the centreline by the time the aircraft had descended to a height equivalent to 100 feet above the runway threshold.
The co-pilot commenced the flare at 50 feet agl and retarded the thrust levers at 30 feet agl, but it became apparent that the aircraft was descending more rapidly than normal. He maintained back pressure on his sidestick but, in an attempt to cushion the landing, the commander also applied back pressure to his sidestick. When making his control input the commander did not press his sidestick priority takeover pushbutton. The aircraft made a firm touchdown on its main wheels and bounced once before touching down again. As the aircraft slowed on the runway, the pilots were informed by ATC that the aircraft had scraped its tail on the runway. No abnormal indications were apparent on the flight deck and the crew continued taxiing to stand, completing the normal after landing checks and starting the APU. When parked, they shut down the engines and disembarked the passengers as normal before inspecting the damage. None of the cabin crew realised the aircraft had suffered a tail strike until they were informed by the commander.
It appeared there was a 20 foot long scrape on the fuselage underside, the skin adjacent to pressure bulkhead was penetrated and the APU inlet was damaged.

The accident was caused by an accumulation of factors. The sequence was initiated when the aircraft was manoeuvred to regain the centre-line between 300 feet and 100 feet aal. The overall change in airspeed during this manoeuvre was minimal but the rate of descent increased slightly. During the last 100 feet of the descent, there was a shift in wind direction which introduced a tailwind component of some 4 to 6 kt. This late change in the wind component reduced the aircraft's airspeed and flare potential, thereby introducing the need for an abnormally high pitch angle to arrest the rate of descent.
Unfortunately, with the aircraft manoeuvring to regain the centreline at a late stage in the approach, it is likely that both pilots had stopped monitoring airspeed just before the wind changed direction and so no corrective power change was applied. (The co-pilot was manually controlling thrust and so the airspeed protection available from the autothrust system was inactive.) Next, the visual cues for both pilots relating to the aircraft's speed and height may well have been masked by the terrain and the slope of Runway 09 until the aircraft was almost over the threshold. In the last few seconds of the approach the co-pilot's initial flare was too gentle and the commander's corrective input at 15 feet agl was too late to have the desired effect. Since neither pilot had their sidestick priority takeover pushbutton depressed at this point, both of their control inputs were summated. However, as the commander had effectively demanded maximum elevator deflection, the fact that he had not pressed his side stick override button made no difference to the elevator position achieved during the flare.
The combination of commanded elevator deflection and low airspeed meant that the aircraft pitch on touchdown was 1.4° higher than normal.
All these factors contributed to a firm landing but their combined effect was still insufficient to cause a tail strike. It was the attempt to control the bounced landing that directly caused the physical damage.
When the aircraft bounced the commander did not consider going around but instead applied a nosedown sidestick input. The co-pilot retained, all be it a reducing, nose-up sidestick command. On this occasion because the pilots were ordering elevator positions in the opposite sense, the fact that the commander had not pressed his sidestick takeover pushbutton meant that the summated control inputs did not achieve the reduction in pitch attitude that the commander had intended. When combined with the increasing pitching moment caused by spoiler deployment, the pitch of 13.4° achieved on the second touchdown was sufficient to result in the tail strike.
It has not been possible to determine what pitch attitude would have been achieved had the commander pressed his sidestick priority takeover pushbutton when he attempted to reduce the aircraft's pitch attitude after the initial bounce.

Accident investigation:
Investigating agency: AAIB
Report number: EW/C2003/06/02
Status: Investigation completed
Duration: 1 year and 4 months
Download report: Final report


History of this aircraft

Other occurrences involving this aircraft
8 August 1998 N302ML Prime Air 0 Denver, CO non


Revision history:


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