An Airbus A330 belonging to Turkish Airlines scraped its tail on the runway on departure. Its crew landed back safely – but not right away.
This incident took place on Tuesday the 30th of August this year. It involved flight TK-726, which the airline performs three times per week. The flight departs from Istanbul Airport (LTFM) in Turkey, heading for Kathmandu Tribhuvan International Airport (VNKT) in Nepal. This flight normally lasts a bit under seven hours.
We don’t know how many passengers were on board this Turkish Airbus A330, during the incident. But we know that the flight crew lined up their Airbus with runway 35L for departure, only about 15 minutes late. The aircraft then took off and headed east as it climbed, reaching FL350 in cruise. Its crew flew towards their destination normally, for at least an hour after departure.
That was when the Turkish Airlines crew made a left 180-degree turn, back towards Istanbul. The crew also put their aircraft into a descent, as soon as they started their turn. It is not clear at this time why the flight turned around when it did. One plausible explanation is that a runway inspection revealed that the aircraft had a tail strike on departure.
Turkish A330 Burning Fuel
After turning around, the Turkish Airlines crew stopped their descent when their A330 reached FL140. The primary reason for this early descent was in case there was anything wrong with the aircraft’s pressurized hull, after the incident. But the lower altitude also helped the crew burn a bit of fuel. As they got closer to their origin airport, the crew descended further, to FL050.
They then entered a hold, to burn more fuel. The Turkish Airways A330 remained in this holding pattern for one and a half hours. Then about four hours and ten minutes after departure, the crew landed their aircraft safely on runway 35R. As of this writing, a bit over 24 hours later, the aircraft is still on the ground.
This is a Turkish Airlines Airbus A330-303 (with GE CF6 engines), with tail number TC-JOG. It is relatively young, at around seven and a half years old. The damage it suffered may be minor, but it could keep it out of service for some time.
Thanks to fly-by-wire, it is less common to see tail scrapes on departure involving Airbus aircraft. But in the right (i.e. wrong) circumstances, like strong crosswinds, for instance, such an event is still possible. However what is more worrying, is that the aircraft then climbed to cruise altitude, where pressurization could put more strain on a damaged fuselage.