Final Report: Fedex Airbus returned to airport after tail strike on takeoff

 - September 27, 2007, 6:58 AM

Airbus A300-600F, El Paso, Texas, June 10, 2002–The NTSB determined that the cause of the tail strike the FedEx Airbus suffered on takeoff from El Paso International was the flight crew’s failure to obtain Vr speed before rotation, which resulted in insufficient lift. The crew had entered the V-speeds in the flight-management system (FMS) and both crewmembers’ primary flight displays (PFDs) showed no discrepancies. V1 was 139 knots and Vr was approximately 143 knots. The captain entered the V2 speed into the flight control computer, and 250 knots for the extended speed. As the airplane accelerated for takeoff, the V-speeds were shown correctly on the PFD at 80 knots. Distracted momentarily to check the engine diagnostic page, the first officer then saw that V2 had reset to 100 knots. He called V1 rotate and the captain raised the nose to 12 degrees of pitch. The airplane was not accelerating. The first officer saw the airspeed was below V2 and executed a rejected takeoff.

When the airplane landed, the flight computer applied maximum autobrake, causing two tires to burst. The flight crew entry in the aircraft maintenance log stated, “Rejected T/O due to FMS speeds dumping and blue A/S line rolling back to 100. Rejected @ 120 knots raw data still indicated properly.”

Maintenance personnel at El Paso removed and replaced both FMS computers, removed four wheel and tire assemblies, completed inspection of wheel brake assemblies and axles and installed new number-one and number-four wheel and tire assemblies, a new number-three main tire and removed and replaced the number-four brake assembly.

The next morning, during a routine walkaround of the aircraft, the first officer noted evidence of a tail strike on the aircraft. An FAA inspector found, at about 3,000 feet down the 12,000-foot runway, a one-quarter-inch by 100-yard gash, with purple paint transfer. Neither pilot recalled the tail strike.