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Last updated: 27 October 2021
Date:Monday 10 June 2002
Type:Silhouette image of generic A306 model; specific model in this crash may look slightly different
Airbus A300F4-605R
Operator:FedEx Express
Registration: N681FE
MSN: 799
First flight: 1999
Total airframe hrs:4627
Crew:Fatalities: 0 / Occupants: 2
Passengers:Fatalities: 0 / Occupants: 0
Total:Fatalities: 0 / Occupants: 2
Aircraft damage: Substantial
Aircraft fate: Repaired
Location:El Paso International Airport, TX (ELP) (   United States of America)
Phase: Takeoff (TOF)
Departure airport:El Paso International Airport, TX (ELP/KELP), United States of America
Destination airport:Memphis International Airport, TN (MEM/KMEM), United States of America
An Airbus A300-600F, N681FE, owned and operated as Flight 1255 by FedEx Express, experienced a tail strike during a rejected takeoff (RTO) at the El Paso International Airport (ELP), Texas. The captain and first officer were not injured, and the airplane sustained substantial damage. Bright night visual meteorological conditions prevailed for the scheduled flight.
The captain was the pilot flying (PF), and the first officer was the non-flying pilot (PNF). The flight crew briefed a high (ELP elevation 3,958 feet msl), hot (approximately 90 degrees Fahrenheit), and heavy departure (TOGW 297,000 pounds; 375,880 MTOGW), as well as an engine-out departure procedure. The flight crew completed the taxi-out and pre-departure checklist without any anomalies and entered the V-speeds (V1 was 139 knots and Vr was approximately 143 knots.) into the flight management system (FMS). Both crewmember's primary flight display (PFD) displayed the V-speeds with the standard blue lines with no discrepancies noted. The PF entered the V2 speed (approximately 143 knots) into the flight control computer in the glare shield and entered 250 knots for the extended speed to 10,000 feet msl. The PNF did not recall being distracted during the checklist or before takeoff procedures. The flight crew requested and was cleared for departure on runway 04.
The PF aligned the airplane on the runway and applied standard takeoff power. The fight instruments were cross-checked at 80 knots (PNF called out 80 knots) and the V-speeds were correctly displayed on the PFD. The PNF checked the engine diagnostic page to observe the #2 engine vibrations. According to the PNF, when he looked back at the PFD, the V-speeds were not displayed, and V2 had reset to 100 knots. According to company personnel, the PNF did not look at the speed index (correct raw speed data) on the left side of the PFD. The PNF called "V1 rotate," and the PF responded by establishing an aircraft pitch of approximately 12 degrees. The PF realized the airplane was not climbing or accelerating properly, and the PNF realized the airspeed was approximately 120-125 knots (below V2), called for the PF to lower the nose of the airplane. The captain [PF] lowered the nose, determined the best and safest course of action was to reject the takeoff, and executed a rejected takeoff by pulling the throttles to idle. The flight control computer automatically applied maximum auto brakes, the airplane slowed, and the PF taxied the airplane off the runway at high-speed taxiway P.

FedEx maintenance personnel and the ARFF personnel observed two tires had deflated during the rejected takeoff. The airplane was taxied to the ramp for maintenance repairs. The next morning, the first officer found evidence of a tail strike during the walk-around inspection. The FAA inspector, who responded to the accident site, and FedEx maintenance personnel found a 1/4 inch gash approximately 100 yards long with purple paint transfer (consistent with the aircraft paint) approximately 3,000 feet beyond the approach end of runway 04.

Probable Cause:

The flight crew's failure to obtain the Vr speed prior to rotation which resulted in insufficient lift and the subsequent tail strike.

Accident investigation:
Investigating agency: NTSB
Status: Investigation completed
Duration: 5 years and 2 months
Accident number: FTW02LA198
Download report: Summary report


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This map shows the airport of departure and the intended destination of the flight. The line between the airports does not display the exact flight path.
Distance from El Paso International Airport, TX to Memphis International Airport, TN as the crow flies is 1552 km (970 miles).

This information is not presented as the Flight Safety Foundation or the Aviation Safety Network’s opinion as to the cause of the accident. It is preliminary and is based on the facts as they are known at this time.
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