In my experience as a flight instructor and as a flight examiner, I’ve observed some PPL and ULM pilots reluctant to go-around. This misgivings about going around are more an attitude rather than aptitude. I’d like the reader, a pilot, could think about it.
The go around procedure is a relatively easy manoeuvre. Pilot needs to internalise the actions sequence in order to make it safely. Because when needs to be done, in most of cases is unexpected.
When a pilot makes the go around must to have clear in his mind the speed. Approach speed is a relatively low speed. At the same time, flap deflection is high, so it is the aerodynamic drag; and, when applying power on a single engine aircraft, the P factor must be counteracted to avoid a yaw at low speed, low altitude and high aerodynamic drag. This means, actions to be done are summarised in just three:
- Apply power counteracting with rudder (P factor);
- Raise flap to our desired position;
- Nose up to fly the correct speed.
Even though the exact order of pilot actions may vary depending of aircraft’s procedures, as you can see, they’re only three simple actions. So, why do we make mistakes when we go around? What do we have to avoid making mistakes during its execution?
Despite having our manoeuvre very clear in our mind, there are some factors which divert our attention of what we’re doing.
Surprise is one of them. There is a technical term, “Startle factor”. If you watched “sully’s movie”, you’d probably would know what I’m talking about. When a pilot finds himself on a final approach and final checks completed, in his mind there is only one thing going through: To land. If in that moment, the tower instructs to go around, lasts an average of almost two seconds to realise what’s the tower’s instructions. This lapse of time is what his brain needs to assimilate an instruction “he was not mentally prepared for”.
In other scenario, very often too, just after receiving the go around instruction, controllers give you later instructions to follow after going around. i.e.: “RIS089G, after passing the tower, turn left and join left downwind…” Meanwhile, pilot is still doing first actions of the procedure. This could make pilot not to focus enough in what he’s doing or not to paying attention to controller’s instructions either.
It’s hard to some controllers to have a picture of what is the pilot’s workload after giving the go around instruction. But, pilot far from being distracted, must focus on making the manoeuvre and not to listen controller’s instructions until the procedure is completed. A distraction at this time could be fatal. To achieve this, there’s one thing pilot must do: TO FLY THE AIRPLANE. Nothing else. You can get a lot from just 3 seconds which lasts to execute the manoeuvre.
A typical error I observed, is to readback the go around instruction on the radio while you’re in the middle of the manoeuvre… There’s time enough to communicate, so first: FLY THE AIRPLANE. Pilot needs to prioritise his actions in an order to preserve safety:
- Fly the airplane (focus on doing the manoeuvre);
- Navigate (fly straight to overfly runway);
- Communicate (“RIS089G, going around”).
We mentioned some of them previously. To keep yourself in good shape, pilots needs training. This helps to execute the manoeuvre without losing time thinking in how to do it, we interiorise our actions, and we reduce our mental energy, giving more capacity to other tasks.
How many of you remind yourselves how to perform a go around before commencing the approach, or when reading final checklist before landing? This is a good way to think about the go around, to remind ourselves how to do it, and what direction to proceed during this phase. To include it in our approach briefing keeps the procedure clear in our mind. It eases the surprise factor, but it remains though.
Distractions affect us. That’s with is recommended to follow our mentioned priorities: fly the airplane, navigate and communicate. In this way we’ll be able to avoid put the airplane in a risky attitude, going where we should go, and communicate to ATC what we’re doing is what we’ve been instructed to. In case a controller gets anxious, we might be tempted and paying too much attention to him instead of our airplane. We could put the airplane into an undesired situation… We’ll have time to kindly use the “SAY AGAIN” later.
When an airplane is coming to land, in pilot’s mind, the more the closer to ground the airplane is, the idea of landing is higher and higher. This desire rules out the not to land idea, closing a door to plan B: GO AROUND.
“Landing is a failed go around”.
We should reconsider the go around concept and put it in the other way around. At all times we have to perform a go around, but if the approach is flown inside a stablished profile, you continue until ground. Recently, a friend of mine, Miguel told me: “Landing is a failed go around”.
Pilots should deprive of the idea of going around is a shame. Landing when you should not, even when nothing happened, is a big mistake. Fatal in many cases. There are events of runway excursions because speed during approach was too high and after landing, brakes were not able to absorb the excessive energy and broke up. However, after a smooth landing… A go around was always able during approach.
I remember very well during a PPL exam, the student, during first attempted approach, the airplane was diverted from its trajectory due to a gust, when he tried to correct the airplane speed was too high. He felt so “uncomfortable” that initiated a goa round immediately. After landing I could read his concern on his face. He wrongly concluded his exam was failed do to his first approach. Far from that, I did congratulate him and even more, I encouraged to continue that way. “If you’d haven’t done it, I’d had to do it myself”, I told him. In that case we would have a different tone conversation.
Instructors have to make students, at the final stage of training, to be able to take their own decisions in order to keep safety of the flight. Is one of the signs which shows a student is ready to obtain his license. Is a process where we should let them to make mistakes and giving them tools to be able to decide. It’s curious, flying with some experienced pilots, when they are instructed to go around, tend to turn their heads to flight instructor in order to receive an approval sight. Go around instruction is an irreversible decision. So, it’s something that you do it first and discuss the reason later. It must be done with certain celerity and without hesitation.
It’s common in air clubs to find two similar experienced pilots in the same aircraft. It may happen, meanwhile one of them is at controls, the companion may feel a little uncomfortable during an approach… Do not hesitate. Cowards allways win here. If one of them see something the other did not, it’s better to go around instead of landing. The safest solution is: GO AROUND.
Remember, the best landing is not to do it. Have always in mind and don`t close the safest door, going around. It’s recommended to train its execution in the correct sequence and, one decision is made, it’s irreversible and we must complete it.
Finally, I’ve put a link of a very interesting video about an accident which happened in United States during a go around of a Cirrus aircraft.