On 11 May 2016, Jetstar Airbus A320-232, reg VH-VGF (VGF) was taking off on runway 27 at Melbourne Airport, Victoria. The flight crew consisted of a training captain in the left seat, a cadet pilot in the right seat and a safety pilot, who was also the first officer, in the jump-seat. This was the cadet pilot’s first takeoff as pilot flying.
During rotation, the tail of the aircraft contacted the runway surface.
After takeoff, the cadet pilot realised that the pitch rate during rotation was higher than normal and discussed this with the captain. During the climb, the cabin crew discussed hearing an unusual noise during the takeoff rotation with the captain. Due to the higher than normal rotation rate and the noise heard by the cabin crew, the captain elected to stop the climb and return to Melbourne. The first officer swapped seats with the cadet pilot and the aircraft landed uneventfully on runway 27.
The ATSB found that during rotation, the cadet pilot applied a larger than normal sidestick pitch input resulting in a higher than normal pitch rate. The tail of the aircraft contacted the runway surface resulting in damage to the auxiliary power unit (APU) diverter and APU drain mast. While airborne, the crew did not specifically advise air traffic control (ATC) of the possibility that a tail strike had occurred during takeoff.
The captain had only advised air traffic controllers that they were returning to Melbourne due to an “engineering issue”, rather than advising them of a potential tailstrike.