A cargo plane that took off from Sydney Airport with the tail stand still attached, was chased down the runway by an engineer because he did not have a number for the control tower.

The Australian Transport Safety Bureau’s final report on the incident on January 22, 2019, revealed the comedy of errors that unfolded when the potentially disastrous mistake was realised. The report said the Cobham Aviation aircraft, a British Aerospace 146-300, had flown from Melbourne to Sydney on the way to Brisbane.

While the plane was unloaded, a tail stand or “strut” was attached to the rear to provide stability.

Tail stands perform an important role when unloading aircraft, keeping this sort of thing from happening. Picture: John Grainger

Tail stands perform an important role when unloading aircraft, keeping this sort of thing from happening. Picture: John Grainger

But the equipment was forgotten by both captain and engineer when the aircraft was cleared for takeoff, with the two failing to undertake a thorough pre-departure checklist.

It was only when a ground staff member from a different company pointed out the tail strut that the engineer became aware of the oversight, just as the plane started to taxi.

“The engineer began pursuing the aircraft on foot, and attempted to attract the captain’s attention by waving his arms and shouting,” said the report.

“The engineer, realising he wouldn’t be able to get the pilots’ attention, joined the ground staff member on the tug and proceeded after the aircraft.”

The report noted that the engineer was unable to inform the Sydney Control Tower of the situation because he did not have a contact number.

Instead he phoned the National Jet Express maintenance watch and asked them to contact the flight crew but they were unsuccessful.

“Realising he was not going to catch the aircraft prior to it entering the runway, the engineer approached a nearby works safety officer,” the report said.

“As the engineer was asking the safety officer to immediately contact the tower via radio, to prevent the flight from taking off, the aircraft turned onto runway 16R, powered up and departed.”

Following the plane’s departure, the runway and taxiway were closed to look for the tail strut which was found in several pieces.

Satisfied the equipment had detached from the aircraft the captain continued on to Brisbane where the flight was ordered to land on a secondary runway as a precaution. An inspection found no remnants of the tail strut, nor any damage to the aircraft.

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