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In an unusual accident last week, an Airbus A321 had a tail strike as it rotated on departure. The alleged reason it happened is interesting.

This mishap took place on Thursday the 1st of December. It involved flight LA-1277, a regular domestic LATAM service in Chile. The flight departs from Santiago International Airport (SCEL) at 7:30 pm local time, heading for Concepcion Carriel Sur International (SCIE). It is a short flight, usually lasting around 40-45 minutes.

In this tail strike accident flight, the LATAM A321 departed from Santiago on time. Its flight crew lined up with runway 17R, but as they rotated, their tail made solid contact with the runway surface. Interestingly, the crew then continued to climb.

 

A321 Tail Strike Accident – Aftermath

The aircraft briefly reached FL180. Following a tail strike, pilots typically avoid pressurizing the cabin. However, we don’t know how quickly this A321 crew became aware of their tail strike. In any case, they came back and landed safely in Santiago, about 30 minutes after their departure.

ACCIDENT: A321 Tail Strike On Takeoff

Photo: @JacdecNew via Twitter

The flight’s passengers would eventually reach their destination in another LATAM A321. We don’t know how many were on board the fight at the time. As of this writing, the accident aircraft is still on the ground in Santiago and hasn’t flown again. Its tail number is CC-BEJ. This A321-211 is less than seven years old, first entering service in April 2016 with LAN Airlines. It became part of LATAM Chile after LAN and TAM merged later in the same year.

The fact that the A320 family has fly-by-wire means that we see relatively few events where these jets have a tail strike on departure. Most A320-family tail strikes tend to involve go-arounds. According to Aviation Herald, this tail strike accident had to do with the way the A321 had been loaded.

A LATAM A321. Photo: Iyusi766, CC BY-SA 4.0

There have been previous incidents where ground crews accidentally loaded all luggage to the front or the rear hold, rather than split them between the two. In many such cases, these errors aren’t serious enough to cause any damage.

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