Air Canada tail-strike pilot was conducting first 777 flight

Aviation

Investigators probing an Air Canada Boeing 777-300ER tail-strike at Hong Kong have disclosed that the landing was the pilot’s first on the 777, outside of a simulator.

The first officer, the flying pilot, had obtained a type rating on the 777 five days earlier and was under the supervision of a training captain, with over 6,400h on type, during the flight from Toronto.

Hong Kong’s Air Accident Investigation Authority states that the first officer had not previously flown the aircraft, other than through simulator training, nor previously carried out a Hong Kong approach as an operating crew member.

Two cruise relief pilots were also in the cockpit at the time of the event on 11 December last year.

The crew briefed for the approach but, while the pilots had expected to land on runway 07L, the arrival runway underwent a late switch to the parallel 07R.

Weather conditions for the approach included a crosswind of up to 12kt from the left.

Investigators state that the aircraft was “marginally above” the glideslope for 07R, but stabilised, and the first officer disengaged the autopilot at 400ft. The captain provided verbal guidance during the descent towards the runway.

But as it passed through 200ft the twinjet commenced a series of, initially minor, roll deviations before entering a “pronounced” roll to the left and then the right, the inquiry says in its preliminary findings.

“The [first officer] introduced large control inputs into the aircraft to control the sudden and unanticipated roll behaviour,” it adds. “The aircraft was not wings-level at the touchdown point as it was rolling to the right.”

Its right-hand main landing-gear contacted the runway first, and the combination of a high descent rate and nose-high attitude resulted in a hard landing and allowed the aft fuselage underside to strike the runway surface. The aircraft bounced before settling.

Inspection of the jet (C-FITW) showed that it had suffered substantial damage to its lower fuselage. “The aircraft is currently unserviceable and is undergoing a major repair process,” the inquiry says.

None of the 376 passengers and 17 crew members was injured during the event. The inquiry stresses that the findings are preliminary and it has yet to reach conclusions over the circumstances.

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