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Qantas 737 “tailstrike” was caused by iPad data entry fail

On August 1 last year, a Boeing 737-838 (VH-VZR) operated by Qantas performed a "tailstrike" while taking off from Sydney airport. Today, the Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) has concluded that the strike was caused by the co-pilot fat-fingering the plane's takeoff weight: instead of typing the plane's actual weight of 76,400kg into the iPad, he accidentally typed 66,400kg. As a result, the plane didn't have quite enough thrust to clear the runway without… ( More...

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Shouldn't there have been enough data in the iPad at some point so the app could have cross-checked everything to see if it was all reasonable? Should have triggered an error message along the way such as "Are you sure? Takeoff weight, PAX, fuel, and ETE don't seem to add up. Either you've got very skinny passengers, or it's going to get very quiet up there well short of your destination." Sure, GIGO, but cross-checking all the "GI" should have detected a 10,000 kg discrepancy.
That's the crew's job to make sure the calculations are reasonable. As it is now everything regarding payload is average weights. How many pax have you observed that are 170 lbs. with their carry on bags. The Aero Data system has a lot of biuilt in protections. To prevent errors like this one. There's even a simple formula for determining weight of the aircraft after its in flight in cruise. It's True airspeed times 1,000. Divided by total fuel flow. Which will give you NAM. That nautical air miles per 1'ooo lbs. go into the cruise chart for the altitude your at with NAM. That will tell you the weight of aircraft .
jmrazek1 2
James T 2
Engage brain, before putting fingers into gear! Made my day, thanks!
James Derry 1
Michael. On my aircraft we get weight and balance and performance calculations on our iPad app. We put the weather, fuel, pressure, runway in use and pax number in the FMS and it computes the take-off performance and power again. The two should agree. Obviously the 737 set-up is slightly different or the explanation is inaccurate as it sounds like they take the results and put them in FMS. In addition, we still have all the quick reference charts, so we can have a third check completely manually. (We even have an updated paper copy!) ;-)

Apps don't generally cross check. They compute on the basis of input. Cross checking is for the brain behind the inputs. Us!
Thanks. I'd like to think there's still a place for brains in our gadget-ruled world.
Rod Tataryn 1
:-) Re-read Ruben's post. :-)
John brandt 1
to Colon wasnt it 2014 last year i was just looking at the calendar and it was 2014 last year!?
cuttlefish 1
Gimme back the days of a performance manual, manual calculations and.cross checked and ticked and then stuck where everybody can see it!
You would think rather that the crew would have asked gee this EPR seems awfully low for the load we are carrying

Whomever wrote the software might have flagged such a light weight and asked
CFM engines don't have EPR gauges. Just N1, EGT and fuel flow
TailspinT 1
Subject should read: "Qantas 737 'tailstrike' was caused by copilot data entry fail." Arguably software programmer fail for not testing for reasonableness. But not iPad's fault, as implied. Also, since I'm ranting about writing, the referenced article says the pilot mistakenly entered 51ºC in the OPT. He didn't, he put in 21º; the 51º figure is a calculated temperature produced by the program which represents the derate equivalent.
Charles Ball 1
I had no idea the flight data was calculated using tablets like the iPad. I thought pilots just did this on the fly in their head
At what point does maximize thrust for takeoff no longer apply? Is that a jet thing or save money company guideline?
James Derry 1
On my type we have no reduced TO thrust charts. We calculate the takeoff thrust which gives us TO distance and performance. So anything less is uncalculated. So we use max. We can reduce after TO for noise if desired, but TO always max. Different for different aircraft. Our engines are derated so much that we can use max climb, max cruise without any danger of over-taxing these engines. Save fuel at lower power settings, of course. Which gives better range, thereby sometimes avoiding a fuel stop which is an even bigger savings. Fly slower, get there earlier!
Amoc Sivunna 1
There is another possible reason of the incident. Error in loading the aircraft. Erroneous weight distribution on board.
Good grief!!! That's over twenty-two thousand pounds!!! I was in the shipping business and that's over half the weight of a 40 foot container we put on ships. Bells should have been ringing in someone's ears. That's why we have PIC and First Officers. Common sense MUST still be in use in the cockpit.
Ken Lindberg 1
I guess the co-pilot has been fired?
jamesjohn911 1
Lol who cares...the computer could be on fire sparking out and filling the cockpit with smoke and thoes awesome qantas pilots will still fly it and land it "no worries mate" is what they would say as they touchdown at YPPH.. Qantas is still the safest airline IN THE WORLD without a single fatality and there one of the longest running Aussie Aussie Aussie Oy Oy Oy
sparkie624 0
GIGO... Can''t blame the computer... "Garbage In, Garbage Out"... Sometimes I think that many people put too much trust in computers.
ken young 0
Another example or how we rely too heavily on gadgets.
The error had nothing to do with the gadget. The article mentions that the copilot actually made an error in weight calculation because when manually calculating on paper he 'forgot to carry the one' - if the misentry is the iPad's fault, then is the miscalculation then pencil's fault?
Burkhard Renk 0
Or at least a real solid keyboard - computers without a keyboard are toys.
James Derry 2
Seriously? That is one of the dumbest comments I have seen in a long time. As I change my iPad keyboard to Norwegian, Russian, French, English and Chinese to have written "conversations" with people all over the world, follow my progress on maps, change to performance, back to maps, send a message......I will think "how stupid was that guy...."
sparkie624 2
Ok Mr 1950's... You may want to check out a lot of different things, because by your definition all the airliners flying modern days have computers with no key boards but you control it with other things in the aircraft... In most modern airliners even the Potable Water system is computer controlled... And assuming you have a car that was made after 1980, all of them have computers without keyboards.

A basic computer does 3 things and only 3 things.... 1.) They Store Data, 2.) They Move Data, 3.) They Add Data. Is what makes them all different is the way that it does those 3 tasks, and believe it or not, those tasks can be come very complicated.

Just remember, the next time you are driving down the road and you are stopped by a stop light it was nothing more than a computer storing, moving, and adding data... Nothing more and nothing less.

Not sure where you came up with that statement, but I think you need to put your brain in gear before speaking, and in this case typing.
joel wiley 1
One other thing they do, compare data - branch on <condition> gets complicated fast.
Jim Sinsky 1
I'd feel much safer is I saw the pilot carrying a stack of punch cards rather than a new-fangled tablet.
Rob Palmer -1
Amen! We're all conditioned into using a real-spaced keyboard. Anything else is a disaster waiting to happen.
georgep 1
You might be, the children that we are raising that will soon be 'us' won't be.
Lucio DiLoreto -3
Colin Seftel -7
The incident happened in 2014, not "last year".
Colin Seftel 14
Now that I read it I wish I could delete!
Ruger9X19 13
I bet that's what that copilot said.
Torsten Hoff 2
Ta-dum tssss!
ken young 2
You just made the counterpoint to the story. We rely on gadgets too much. Trust them too implicitly
David Barnes 2
Colin: Perhaps these posts serve as an example of the type of error that caused the subject event? :)
Colin Seftel 3
Unintentionally, yes! Maybe in future I should get a "co-pilot" to cross-check.
zennermd 2
Sounds like someone is a wee bit excited for it to be 2016. :)
Steve Roseman 1
Let's think about this one. This is 2015, still will be until Jan 1, 2016. So, every event that occurred in 2014, technically is "last year." Maybe you could explain your comment?


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