Take-off scare hits 'wrong weight' jet

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The Independent Online

A jetliner carrying more than 225 people slammed its tail into the runway during take-off from Australia because someone programmed the wrong weight for the plane into a flight computer, investigators said today.

No one was hurt when the Emirates airline's Airbus A340 scraped its tail taking off from the southern city of Melbourne on March 20, damaging the plane and runway and causing smoke to enter the cabin.

The plane dumped its fuel at sea then returned to Melbourne for an emergency landing.

The Australian Transport Safety Bureau said in a preliminary report that the weight of the plane entered into a computer used to calculate how much thrust was needed for a safe takeoff was too light by 100 metric tons (112 U.S. tons).

The result was some tense moments in the cockpit as the pilots realized they had not given the plane enough power to get off the ground. As the plane reached takeoff speed, the captain called for his co-pilot to begin liftoff, but the plane's nose did not rise off the ground, the bureau said.

With the end of the runway approaching, the captain again called for liftoff and the co-pilot tried again — this time succeeding in raising the nose but leaving the tail dragging on the ground.

The tail ripped out at least one runway light, and a flight data recorder at the rear of the plane was dislodged.

The captain then pushed the thrust levers to the maximum setting, the engines roared and the plane finally took off.

The bureau said Emirates had informed it that the airline was reviewing human factors, training, procedures and hardware and software aboard its planes in response to the incident.