FRANKFURT (Reuters) - Authorities in Germany are investigating how a Deutsche Lufthansa plane flew across the Atlantic with damage to its rear section without passengers or crew noticing that the tail had hit the ground on take-off.
The incident involving an Airbus A330, built by EADS, occurred at the start of March on a flight from Chicago to Munich, Germany's largest airline said.
"It seems the plane touched the ground on take-off, thus damaging the rear," a Lufthansa spokesman said.
The BFU, Germany's air accident investigator, said that during the "tailstrike", three or four pieces of fuselage came loose from the rear, although the passenger cabin was not damaged.
The crew and passengers did not notice the bump and the damage was first spotted after landing in Munich, investigator Lothar Mueller said. Such incidents occur 2-3 times a year to German aircraft, he said.
Tailstrike incidents rarely cause significant damage or cause danger, especially when they occur at take-off.
If they had noticed the strike, standard Airbus operating procedure would have required the crew to avoid pressurising the cabin and land at an airport to assess the damage.
Lufthansa declined to give further details as the matter was being examined by the BFU.
(Reporting by Peter Maushagen; Writing by Victoria Bryan; Editing by Kevin Liffey)