Air Moldova A321 Suffers Tail Strike Landing In Moscow

An Air Moldova Airbus A321-200 suffered a tail strike during landing at Moscow Domodedovo Airport, forcing its return flight to be canceled. The accident happened on Sunday, May 16th, and the damaged aircraft is still grounded at the airport at the time of publication. Strong winds are believed to have played a factor in causing the tail strike.

Air Moldova A321 Suffers Tail Strike Landing In Moscow
An Airbus A321-200 operated by Air Moldova struck its tail on the runway after landing. Photo: Getty Images

Tail strike damages an Air Moldova A321

An A321-200 operated by Air Moldova was damaged during landing, with the aircraft landing heavily and striking its tail on the runway. The plane was operating Air Moldova flight 9U-171 from Chisinau to Moscow on May 16th.

Upon final approach to Moscow Domodedovo Airport at 15:20 local time (MSK), the crew was forced to initiate a go around at less than 300 ft. Sources have claimed that the go around was due to strong winds (wind shear). Local weather data recorded wind gusts from WNW of up to 23 knots at the time of landing.

air moldova
The Air Moldova flight had no passengers onboard. Flight data: RadarBox.com

After climbing altitude and circling the airport, the aircraft eventually landed on runway 14R approximately 20 minutes later. During the landing, the plane touched down heavily, which led to the tail strike. The Aviation Herald, a website that reports on aviation accidents and incidents, classified the tailstrike as an ‘Accident’ rather than an ‘Incident.’

A post-flight inspection found damage to the tail, which forced the aircraft’s return flight (9U-172) to be canceled. The plane is still on the ground in Moscow over 44 hours after the accident occurred, with repairs set to be carried out at Domodedovo Airport. Air Moldova confirmed that there were no passengers onboard the flight, with none of the crew suffering from any injuries.

Irina Bodolica, Head of Press Service at the Moldova Civil Aviation Authority, said,

“An Airbus A321 of Air Moldova was damaged as a result of landing at Domodedovo Airport. None of the passengers were injured. Air Moldova reported the incident to the Civil Aviation Authority and notified the Ministry of Economy and Infrastructure… the aircraft will be repaired at Domodedovo Airport.”

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Air Moldova’s only A321 out of action

The aircraft (registration ER-AXR) is Air Moldova’s only A321 and one of three planes in its fleet. Along with its A321-200, Air Moldova flies with two Airbus A319s with an average age of 17 years.

Air Moldova, Airbus A319, Seized
Air Moldova also has two Airbus A319s in its fleet. Photo: Air Moldova

According to Planespotters.net, the A321-200 is over 23 years old and was acquired on lease from Carlyle Aviation Partners in May 2019. Before entering service with Air Moldova, ER-AXR flew for over 10 years with Aigle Azur and saw action with Turkish carrier AtlasGlobal.

According to Air Moldova,

“The damage is not serious. This incident took place not because of the pilots, but because of a natural factor.”

How serious are tail strikes?

At the time of occurrence, tail strikes usually represent little danger to life. However, the structural damage caused by a tail strike is where the real danger lies. Improper repairs after a tail strike can result in catastrophic damage years down the line.

tail strike
An aircraft experiencing a tail strike. Photo: Maarten Visser via Wikimedia

The most notable accident was Japan Airlines Flight 123 in 1985, which suffered a rapid decompression just 12 minutes after taking off, resulting in the death of 520 passengers and crew. Accident investigators determined that insufficient repairs after a tail strike in 1978 led to the accident seven years later.

To this day, JAL Flight 123 is the deadliest aviation accident involving a single aircraft. Another accident, China Airlines Flight 611, happened 22 years after a tailstrike wasn’t properly repaired.

Have you ever been onboard a flight that suffered a tail strike? Share your experience in the comments.

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