On 10 April 2017, a Boeing 757-200 (G-LSAI) being operated by Jet2.com on an international passenger flight from Leeds-Bradford to Alicante, during which the First Officer was undergoing a Final Line Check conducted by a Training Captain occupying the left seat observed by another Training Captain occupying the supernumerary crew seat, was mishandled during a day VMC landing and was subsequently found to have sustained significant damage after the rear fuselage struck the runway. None of the 238 occupants were injured but the runway surface was also marked.
An Investigation into the Accident was carried out by the Spanish Commission for the Investigation of Accidents and Incidents (CIAIAC). Both the CVR and FDR were removed from the aircraft and downloaded but it was found that the 30 minutes of high quality CVR data had been overwritten because of a post flight delay in isolating the recorder, which was contrary to clear instructions in the Operations Manual (OM).
It was found that the 52 year-old Supervising Training Captain had a total of 9,431 flying hours which included 1,000 hours on type and had been employed by Jet2.com for over three years having previously worked for two other air transport operators for 15 years. The 36 year-old First Officer, who had been PF for the flight, had a total of 652 flying hours which included 285 hours on type under training and had been working for Jet2.com for four years, beginning as a ”Pilot Apprentice”, a non-flying position which had then been followed by 14 months employment as a First Officer. The 60-year old Training Captain who was observing the Line Check had a total of 14,680 flying hours which included 4,455 hours on type and had been employed by Jet2.com for 12 years having previously worked for two other air transport operators for 17 years as a pilot and 10 years as a flight engineer.
It was established from the recorded data that the flight prior to the landing had been “standard in terms of procedural performance, with a good crew atmosphere” and the aircraft had been configured for a flap 30 landing and a VREF of 126 KIAS. The destination weather was good with just a light wind more or less down the runway in use - 10 - for which the First Officer, as PF briefed for an ILS approach with the AP engaged. This was flown in accordance with the required stabilised approach criteria and the AP was disconnected at 400 feet agl and the landing flare initiated at 100 feet agl. The pitch attitude was further increased to 6° at 48 feet agl and after the thrust levers reached the idle position at 10 feet agl, touchdown occurred four seconds later with a 5° recorded pitch angle at 119KCAS (VREF-7) and auto spoiler deployment occurred. It was noted that nine seconds in the flare was on the long side and as such seen by Boeing as “a risk factor for tail strike”. An increase in pitch attitude was then recorded reaching a maximum of 10.2° three seconds after touchdown accompanied by a peak in the normal load factor which it was considered was likely to be a consequence of the tail hitting the ground. When the Captain was recorded telling the First Officer to lower the nose position induced by the low touchdown speed, he also instructed him to increase power, which was followed by a slight advance of the thrust levers although not by enough to trigger retraction of the ground spoilers. However since the spoilers did retract it was “considered that this could have been done manually by one of the crew members”. The increase in lift which this produced and the aircraft’s 7° pitch attitude at the time produced a momentary 1 second change from ground mode to flight mode which coincided with a high magnitude recorded movement of the control column. This was identified by the First Officer as a rebound and on that basis he had called “go around”.
At this point, the Captain took over control of the aircraft and the ground spoilers were again extended following which the pitch attitude decreased towards zero, reaching it when the aircraft ground speed had reduced to 100 knots some 13 seconds after touchdown after which the landing roll was completed without further event.
During the subsequent taxi-in, there was no discussion on the flight deck about the abnormal landing but once parked, a conversation with one of the cabin crew who had entered the flight deck to report having heard “a strange noise while landing” was recorded. The CVR also recorded the communication between an airport marshaller and the TWR indicating that the landing had involved a “wheelie” and a tail strike and requesting permission to enter the runway and carry out an inspection. A 4 metre trail indicating fuselage contact with the runway pavement was then found and inspection of the aircraft lower tail cone found corresponding abrasive damage to the structure of the VHF antenna and a water drain mast. Subsequently it was discovered that the partition bulkhead of the rear loading hold was also damaged.
It was noted that the Flight Crew Training Manual (FCTM) described the correct technique for landing the aircraft and makes it clear that if the pitch attitude exceeds 10° with the wings level, there is a risk of striking the lower rear section of the aircraft on the runway surface.
It was found that the First Officer had completed the generic 757 type rating course during February and March 2016 followed by an Operator Conversion Course (OCC) and then some additional simulator training “to reinforce single-engine operation, a weakness detected in the OCC”. After passing his Operator's Proficiency Check (OPC), scheduled base training on the aircraft did not occur due to unsuitable weather conditions and a series of further simulator sessions followed, initially attributable to the base training delay but then continuing due to unsatisfactory performance. Base Training on the aircraft was eventually completed on 9 August 2016 and a scheduled 40 sectors of line training was scheduled and commenced on 23 August. The First Officer’s recorded progress during line training was erratic and attempts at a Final Line Check on 14 January and 2 March 2017 both ended in failure, the first because the Check Captain had to take over during touchdown and the second because the hard landing performed was “below company standards”. The first of these failed Checks had already been preceded by 14 additional line training sectors and the second by a further 12. Following the second failed Check, 10 additional line training sectors were scheduled which were flown between 4 and 26 February 2017. It was noted that the Training volume of the company OM allowed up to one third of the allocated line training sectors to be provided at each remedial stage up to a maximum of 100% of the originally allocated sectors and that “with this last allocation the First Officer had reached the foreseen maximum”. It was noted further relevant requirements in relation to landing proficiency during line training were contained in the company “Flight Crew Training Guidelines” document. The additional sectors were flown in accordance with these guidelines following completion of an OPC/LPC in the simulator and were completed on 7 April 2017 and the accident flight followed three days later. It was noted that during the extended period of line training, the First Officer had made a total of 60 landings including 11 which had required intervention by the Training Captain involved.
The Investigation noted that the aircraft type has a known and documented tendency for the pitch attitude to increase after touchdown and a consequent risk of tail strike if the nose landing gear is kept in the air. It was considered that the low speed of the aircraft at the time of a rather firm touchdown had led to the increasing pitch attitude and that although the opportunity for the Captain to take control earlier may well have prevented the tail strike, the Observing Training Captain had stated that he would “have been influenced by the fact that if he had taken control earlier the First Officer would have failed his Final Line Check immediately”.
It was noted that having exhausted the specified limits of competency training after failing a third Final Line Check despite receiving the maximum amount of supportive type training, the First Officer’s employment contract was subsequently terminated. It was also noted that according to information supplied by the operator, the Supervising Training Captain “had already failed the First Officer because of high pitch attitude before he was aware of the tail strike”.
The Cause of the event was formally documented as "incorrect pitch position control during landing”.
One Contributory Factor was also identified as “the fact that the Captain of the aircraft (PM) could have intervened before the accident to correct the situation”.
The Final Report of the Investigation was approved for release in both Spanish and in English translation on 25 April 2018. No Safety Recommendations were made.