Lufthansa 044 wingstrike: how the newspapers changed their opinion

I think that the wingstrike at Hamburg was most probably caused by a pilot mistake in the “decrab” of the A320 just before touching down. My opinion is based only on the analysis of the famous video made by a spotter just outside the airport’s fence and it is a qualitative evaluation that I’ve explained in my previous post on the same subject.
Initially, almost all media coverage reported that the pilot flying the A320 was a hero, because able to prevent a disaster (without analysing the accident under a technical point of view); when Lufthansa declared that a young female pilot, named only Maxi J., was flying the LH 044 when it was invested by the gust of wind, many journalists drastically changed their opinion. The hero, on the following days, had become the more experienced Captain Oliver A. who flew the second approach after recovering the aircraft from the dangerous attitude. Many newspapers changed their opinion on the mishap when it was unveiled that the approach was flown by a female First Officer and simply could not understand why an experienced pilot had allowed his less experienced female colleague to land the airplane in stormy weather conditions. First of all, an in-depth analysis is paramount to determine the cause of the wing strike. Even if I think the pilot made a mistake during the “decrab”, my opinion doesn’t depend on the gender of the pilot. Then, it is not surprising that the pilot flying was the F/O, as it is a common for pilot and co-pilot to swap roles on commercial flights. Co-pilots have to comply with the same training requirements as captains and must be able to face with the some problems and to perform the same tasks. I was not surprised that a co-pilot was landing the plane at Hamburg: if the captain has decided to leave the colleague land, he was confident that she could do it in safety considering the wind, visibility, runway, etc. at the destination airport.

About David Cenciotti
David Cenciotti is a journalist based in Rome, Italy. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviationist”, one of the world’s most famous and read military aviation blogs. Since 1996, he has written for major worldwide magazines, including Air Forces Monthly, Combat Aircraft, and many others, covering aviation, defense, war, industry, intelligence, crime and cyberwar. He has reported from the U.S., Europe, Australia and Syria, and flown several combat planes with different air forces. He is a former 2nd Lt. of the Italian Air Force, a private pilot and a graduate in Computer Engineering. He has written five books and contributed to many more ones.


  1. My brother sent me this note when the video was first shown on youtube. At that time he knew nothing about the crew nor about who was flying the aircraft:

    When landing in a crosswind you should start to feed in opposite rudder (in this case left rudder) to yaw the aircraft onto the same heading as the runway, a few moments before touchdown. If you do it too early you will develop sideways drift that may lead to burst tyres on landing and if you do it too late you will have to use large control movements which give you much less time to react and control the manoeuvre.

    When you apply rudder the opposite wing will speed up and the other will slow down. Obviously speed equals lift so you should expect the right wing to want to lift and the aircraft bank left – as we see on the film. An average or experienced pilot would coordinate these control movements and anticipate the rolling of the aircraft by feeding in opposite aileron with the rudder, probably touching down the right undercarriage first.

    Because he left it so late to yaw left I think he may still be thinking about flying a smaller training aircraft and has not yet got the feel of the Airbus. He was lucky to have a better Captain who would have taken control I suspect, although I would have thought he shouldn’t have left it quite so long to take over!

  2. Just to give a litle correction on Rolands comment. During a crosswind landing as this one the result of the wing goin up in this case the left one, as to do with lack of left yoke,(in this aircraft left sidestick). As the aircraft aligns with the runway the left wing gets more lift because the right wing receives less wind due to the fuselage. The relative wind is blowing from the left and the fuselage blocks part of it on the right wing. So in order to compensate for the left wing going up we must put sidestick to the left. The opposite ruder is to maintain the aircraft alignment not to compensate for the speed of the righ wing.
    In this modern days of aviation is normal to have this kind of situations. One thing is to be current on the aircraft the other is proficient.And with everything going automatic is normal that a F/O still does not have the hang of it. The problem here was that it was a dificult landing, and the Captain should have take the controls earlier.

    Be carefull up there,

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