Italian aircraft accident investigation authority ANSV has determined that for a takeoff from Verona, Italy, on September 1, 2009, 87 passengers flying onwards to Rome were not redistributed. 58 of these passengers had been in the rear cabin and another 25 in the center cabin, with just 4 in the front. The passengers were supposed to be redistributed with 29 seated in each cabin. Originally, the tail-strike accident was attributed to an imbalance due to luggage distribution, but upon further investigation, probable cause has been identified to be due to uneven passenger load.
Although the ramp agent told ANSV that he had submitted a load and trim sheet to the captain, the reorganization was not carried out, possibly due to a misunderstanding. The captain, however, still approved and signed the load sheet. ASV's full inquiry states that the pilots used the flex thrust setting for departure but, against normal procedures, did not apply forward side-stick pressure as the aircraft began to roll.
7 seconds into the take-off roll, the captain momentarily reduced thrust before abruptly raising it to the maximum. As the aircraft reached 60kt, it struck its tail on the runway, and further fluctuations, with lower intensity, showed the jet suffered repeated strikes, according to the inquiry.
The crew had decided to continue the flight—contrary to operating procedures which require an immediate return to the airport in case of tail-strike—and tried to proceed to Rome. However, the subsequent cabin pressurization warning prompted the crew to return to Verona. The pilots must have realized that the impact occurred during take-off, but the precise decision-making situation could not be clarified because the cockpit-voice recorder data for the initial part of the flight was unavailable. No one was seriously injured in the flight, but four of those in the rearmost row were treated for whiplash.
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