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

In aviation, a tailstrike or tail strike occurs when the tail or empennage of an aircraft strikes the ground or other stationary object. This can happen with a fixed-wing aircraft with tricycle undercarriage, in both takeoff where the pilot rotates the nose up too rapidly, or in landing where the pilot raises the nose too sharply during final approach, often in attempting to land too near the runway threshold.[1][2] It can also happen during helicopter operations close to the ground, when the tail inadvertently strikes an obstacle.[3]

The tail bumper of Concorde G-BOAF at Filton, Bristol

A minor tailstrike incident may not be dangerous in itself, but the aircraft may still be weakened and must be thoroughly inspected and repaired if a more disastrous accident is to be avoided later in its operating life.

Protection measures[edit]

Fixed-wing aircraft with a conventional tail and tricycle undercarriage are vulnerable to tailstrike. Those which require a high angle of attack on takeoff or landing are especially so. They may be fitted with a protection device such as a small tailwheel (Concorde and the Saab Draken), tailskid (Diamond DA20), or reinforced tail bumper. The device may be fixed or retractable.[4][5]

Incident management[edit]

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[edit]


  1. ^ "Preventing tailstrike at takeoff, Airbus Safety Lib" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 23 August 2011.
  2. ^ "Tail Strike Avoidance". www.boeing.com.
  3. ^ "Helicopter Safety". Flight Pg 32. 15 April 1998. Archived from the original on 3 February 2019. Retrieved 26 August 2020.
  4. ^ "Tailstrike in Airbus Safety lib" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on April 25, 2012.
  5. ^ "Aircraft Tail Bumpers", AIR1800, SAE
  6. ^ Ranter, Harro. "ASN Aircraft accident Boeing 747-206B PH-BUF Tenerife-Los Rodeos International Airport (TCI)". aviation-safety.net.
  7. ^ Ranter, Harro. "ASN Aircraft accident Boeing 747SR-46 JA8119 Ueno". aviation-safety.net. Aviation Safety Network. Retrieved June 15, 2009.

External links[edit]