On December 11th, 2018, an Air Canada 777 suffered a tail strike after a “very rough landing” at Hong Kong International Airport. The tail of the Boeing suffered significant damage, and the returning flight to Toronto was cancelled. Fortunately, no injuries were reported, and the damage to the aircraft is repairable.
“Landing is a more difficult maneuver and suffers the most strikes,” aviation expert and former Boeing engineer Peter Lemme said
A tail strike is when the aft-end of the aircraft comes in contact with the ground on either takeoff or landing. In most cases, tail strikes are a result of human error. They can also be caused by environmental factors such as gusty winds. Some aircraft are more prone to tail strikes than others, specifically longer aircraft such as the A340 and the A321. The A321 for instance has the record for most recorded in the shortest amount of time tail strikes, suffering 14 in the past 10 years.
The tailstrike itself is not often deadly, and is easily repaired, however, tail strikes combined with improper repairs can lead to catastrophic failures later in the aircraft’s life. On August 2nd, 1985, Japan Airlines 123 suffered an explosive decompression when the entire empennage of the aircraft broke away from the airplane mid-flight. Unfortunately, the aircraft crashed in the mountainous region of Japan, killing all but 4 passengers. The aircraft had suffered a tailstrike 7 years earlier, while doing repairs, the mechanics only used a single row of rivets instead of the required 2. Over time, metal fatigue set in, and on that one day, it reached its breaking point.