Technology

Culprit Emerges in Botched Take-Off: a Typo

DiscoblogBy Brett IsraelDec 21, 2009 9:48 PM

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Thanks to the winter devastation wrought by this weekend's storm, my weekend holiday travel plans were put on hold until, well, now. So from 36,000 feet above the ground, courtesy of Delta's free wifi (it's the least they could do, seeing how they put me on hold all weekend with "Let it Snow" playing on a loop), I bring you a story of a flight canceled not by weather, but by a typo. Back on March 20th at Melbourne Airport, a United Arab Emirates (UAE) aircraft's tail made contact with the runway during take-off (known as a tail-strike), and the plane was having trouble taking off at all. In fact, the tail hit the ground three more times beyond the runway and the landing gear took out a strobe light and a localizer antennae. Through some slick piloting, the airplane's captain was able to get off the ground, dump fuel, and return to the same airport. The cause for the tail-strike? A number 3 where a number 2 was supposed to be, as reported by IEEE Spectrum:

The Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) confirmed its preliminary findings that determined that "the pre-flight take-off performance calculations were based on an incorrect take-off weight that was inadvertently entered into the take-off performance software on a laptop computer used by the flight crew."

The aircraft's first officer typed in the aircraft's weight as being 262.9 tonnes, while the actual weight was 362.9 tonnes. So yeah, he was a little off, which caused the bumpy take-off. The flight crew members found responsible resigned shortly after the event. Apparently my flight crew at LGA was paying closer attention. Related Content: DISCOVER: The Physics of… Airplanes Discoblog: Airlines, Desperate to Lower Fuel Costs, Turn to GPS Discoblog: So Is It a Disease? United Airlines to Double-Charge Obese Fliers

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