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22 December 2015

It was on this day in Aviation History that the addition of a tail skid on the design of the ATR72 paid off nicely for a pilot under line training.

The incident aircraft on during an unrelated flight (© JohanHavelaar)

The aircraft had left Birmingham (UK) for Isle of Man on a scheduled passenger flight. The flight was nearly full with 66 passengers, 2 cabin attendants, and 2 flight crew onboard the aircraft. The co-pilot was the pilot flying and was completing his line training under the supervision of the captain, who was pilot monitoring for the flight.

After an uneventful flight, the approach was flown in good weather and according to the captain, it was a stable approach. He also stated that the flare was initiated slightly early and to a pitch attitude slightly higher than required.

This caused the aircraft the "float" in ground effect before it started to sink to the runway. When the mainwheels touched down on the runway there was a slight bounce. To avoid an overcorrection by the copilot the captain applied some force on the control column to keep the elevator input as it was to avoid a nose-down input which could lead to a touchdown on the nose landing gear. The second touchdown was rated as firm and the landing run and taxi were without further remarks.

An observer, adjacent to the runway at the moment of the landing, contacted Air Traffic Control of the airport, reporting that he saw sparks coming from under the rear fuselage. ATC contacted the crew and the tail skid was inspected and some light abrasion damage was found. The damage was so minimal that the aircraft could continue in service without maintenance action having to be taken. The tail skid

The non-retractable tail skid on the underside of the rear fuselage to avoid fuselage contact with the runway when the take-off or landing pitch angle is 8° or more. Pitch attitudes of 5.5° or more accompanied with a high rate of descent may also result in ground contact. On both sides of the tail skid, the fuselage is equipped with red painted limit stroke detectors (Figure 5). The limit stroke detectors deform when the tail skid compression is greater than 112 mm to provide a visual indication of tail skid compression. (See pictures below for details)

Tail Skid detail side view (Source ATSB.GOV.AU)

Tail Skid detail (Source ATSB.GOV.AU)

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