Primary school children mistakenly assigned the standard adult weight of 87 kilograms (192 pounds) each tipped the nose of a Qantas Airways Ltd. plane, prompting the pilot to take corrective steps during a takeoff.
Ground staff loaded 87 primary-school students on to the back of a Boeing Co. 737 plane on a May 9 domestic flight and then wrongly entered them as adults, changing the weight of the aircraft in the data supplied to the pilots, Australia’s Transportation Safety Board said on its website today. The mistake prompted the pilot to set the instruments incorrectly, making the plane nose-heavy, it said.
The load-sheet provided to the pilots had overstated the aircraft take-off weight by about 3.5 to 5 tons, according to the report. The single-aisle plane with 150 passengers, including the group of 87 students, was flying to Perth in Western Australia from national capital Canberra. The children were seated together at the rear of the cabin.
To “lift off from the runway, the captain found that significant back pressure was required on the control column,” the agency said in the report. The captain was “conscious of the potential of striking the aircraft tail on the runway” if he put too much pressure on the controls. Boeing pilots pull back on their controls to lift the front of the aircraft.
A list of passengers sent by travel agents had listed the average age of the group as 12 years. All 87 children and 8 adults in the group were recorded with the adult weight rather than the 32 kilograms used for children.