Porter Q400 tailstrike in 2013 affected by unstable approach

The Transportation Safety Board of Canada (TSB) has published its investigation report into a May 2013 hard landing and tail strike involving a Porter Airlines Q400 at the Sault Ste. Marie Airport.

There were no injuries caused by the incident but there was substantial damage to the aircraft.

The incident occurred on 26 May 2013, when the Porter Q400 flew from Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport to Sault Ste. Marie Airport. At 22:16 Eastern Daylight Time, during touchdown, the tail struck the runway. After landing, the aircraft taxied to the gate where the passengers disembarked.

The report notes that during the final approach to landing, the airspeed began to decrease and the descent rate began to increase. This profile put the aircraft in an unstabilised approach requiring a go-around, but the crew continued with the landing.

As the aircraft rapidly approached the runway, instead of increasing engine power to reduce the rate of descent, the pilot pitched the nose up beyond the limits stated in the standard operating procedures and manufacturer's pitch awareness training. The investigation found that the high rate of descent coupled with the high nose-up attitude of the aircraft resulted in the hard landing compressing the struts and allowing the tail to contact the runway.

The investigation also drew attention to the need to clearly define the requirements for a stabilised visual approach, and to clearly define the duties of the pilot monitoring in order to mitigate the risk that unsafe flight conditions could develop.

Immediately after the event, Porter Airlines initiated an internal investigation as part of its Safety Management System. Part of the immediate corrective action involved a revision of the Pitch Awareness Training highlighting previous occurrences and the need to arrest high descent rates with power and not pitch. The company also conducted a review of training for captains and pilots, reviewed use of flap settings on approach, provided further clarification on the stabilised approach procedure, and re-emphasised hazards associated with night-time operations.

Approach-and-landing accidents are a TSB Watchlist issue. The Board is calling on Transport Canada and operators to do more to reduce the number of unstable approaches that are continued to a landing

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