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Tail wheel on an Aermacchi MB-326 to minimise damage caused by tailstrike

In aviation, a tailstrike is an event in which the empennage of an aircraft strikes the runway. This can happen during takeoff of a fixed-wing aircraft if the pilot pulls up too rapidly, leading to the rear end of the fuselage contacting the runway.[1] It can also occur during landing if the pilot raises the nose too aggressively. This is often the result of an attempt to land nearer to the runway threshold.[2]

A tailstrike is physically possible only on an aircraft with tricycle landing gear; with a taildragger configuration, the tail is already on the ground. Some aircraft which require a high angle of attack on takeoff are fitted with small tailwheels (Concorde and the Saab Draken) or tailskids (Diamond DA20) to mitigate the effect of tailstrikes.[3]

Tailstrike incidents are rarely dangerous in themselves, but the aircraft must be thoroughly inspected and repairs may be difficult and expensive if the pressure hull is involved. Inadequate inspections and improper repairs to damaged airframes after a tailstrike have been known to cause catastrophic structural failure long after the tailstrike incident following multiple pressurization cycles.

Examples of notable tailstrikes

  • Emirates Flight 407, tailstrike because of too little thrust on takeoff
  • KLM Flight 4805, severe tailstrike while attempting to avoid collision in the Tenerife airport disaster[4].
  • Japan Airlines Flight 123, improper repairs to a tailstrike on takeoff, resulting in catastrophic structural failure seven years later.
  • China Airlines Flight 611, improper repairs to a tailstrike on landing, resulting in catastrophic failure twenty-two years later.


  1. ^ Preventing tailstrike at takeoff, Airbus Safety Lib
  2. ^ Boeing definition of Tailstrike
  3. ^ Tailstrike in Airbus Safety lib Archived 2012-04-25 at the Wayback Machine.
  4. ^ http://aviation-safety.net/database/record.php?id=19770327-1

External links

  • McDonnell Douglas MD-82, Scandinavian Airlines - tailstrike from Jetphotos.net
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