Printer Friendly

What goes around comes around ... again: deciding on the go-around is step one; executing it should be done in a thoughtful, logical sequence.

Sometimes the only answer to a situation is, "No, not this time." Maybe it applies during a to-minima instrument approach where the ground never appears; maybe while attempting VFR flight toward weather deteriorating into IMC. Often, it should be the first part of the answer to a questionable landing--with the second part of the answer being, "Yes, I'm going around."


The high-profile landing accident involving a Hawker Beechcraft Premier IA at EAA AirVenture 2010 in Oshkosh, Wis., served to elevate the topic. But venue aside, normal application of the requisite skills and judgment can work there, just as they do elsewhere. As accident statistics, investigations and even imagery show, failure to successfully execute a go-around can be deadly business.


A fair number of situations can raise the question. Consider the following real-world, personally observed scenarios.

You're passing abeam the runway numbers on the downwind; you configure the airplane appropriately, continue to base leg, adjust the airplane as necessary again, then you clear your turn to final ... only as you roll out on final do you discover traffic on the runway ... or you're drifting sideways in a crosswind beyond your comfort level ... or you missed the turn and find yourself far off the centerline, or you're under control laterally but too high ... or too fast ... or you can land, but you'll be beyond the first third of the available runway with little remaining ... or you've gotten behind the airplane and it's falling more like a rock en route to a crash site short of the threshold than the sophisticated flying machine it was a few moments ago.

Maybe seeing one of these first starts you to question continuing the approach, one which, after all, worked last time. Maybe that's when you start to question proceeding, but hesitate or outright freeze up on the answer.

Maybe your hesitation to make the no-go/going-around decision stems from something else: traffic closing from behind, another airplane suddenly cutting ahead of you on final; the prospect of overtaking the airplane that just departed or another airplane taxiing into position to depart the reciprocal runway.

The catalyst to take action matters less than the action you take, how you take it, how well you manage the new decision in the process and how quickly you act.

And quickly shouldn't translate into hastily. A poorly managed go-around can bring results as devastating as failing to try.


In fact, according to the AOPA Air Safety Foundation (ASF), go-around accidents accounted for 2.6 percent of all accidents involving takeoff or landing between 1997 and 2006. They comprised 2.2 percent of all fatal accidents.

But the go-around accidents for the period represented a "Lethality Index"--the percentage of actual fatalities--of 16.5 percent, which is far higher than the three percent ASF established for landings, almost the same for accidents occurring during takeoff and initial climb and less than half the 37.4 percent for approach-phase fatal accidents. In the same study, ASF found aircraft malfunctions accounted for less than 15 percent of the causes for approach, landing and go-around accidents.

Conversely, loss of control unrelated to wind, altitude and airspeed problems accounted for nearly 45 percent of the total, and half the pilot-induced share of these accidents. So, while the go-around maneuver often is the best choice when an approach isn't working out to your satisfaction, it's not without some risk. These data are summarized in the graphs at right.

One way to help minimize that additional risk is eliminating the need for a go-around. Easier said than done, of course, but it's axiomatic that a good landing results from a good approach. The sidebar on page 18 offers some tips on ways to ensure the approach to landing is as good as you can make it.

Meanwhile, remembering some basics and proficient hand-flying skills will always take you a long way toward a happy resolution.


So, let's presume you've seen the future and it isn't good: For whatever reason, the approach won't work for you and you're going around. Congratulations on the new decision. So what now?

First, let's disabuse ourselves of the idea that a go-around is simply a touch-and-go without a touchdown. During a touch-and-go, we land with some amount of flaps deployed, start to retract them while rolling on the runway, reset carburetor heat and any other engine controls appropriately, advance the throttle to full power and very quickly lift off again. That sequence is important: touch down, retract flaps, configure engine controls, power up, rotate.

It's important because it's the wrong sequence for a go-around. The goal of the go-around is to not contact the runway and the procedure is somewhat the opposite, largely because we start this with the airplane still airborne. You've been using a relatively low power setting to descend to the runway and now you want to abandon the approach.


First job: Arrest that descent by adding power; if you're trimmed for a steady-state descent adding power will likely convert descent into level flight. Regardless, arresting the descent to avoid touching down--which could produce the conflict you're trying to avoid--requires adding power, and maybe even flying level along the runway for a bit while you do other stuff, like accelerate.

Then, as go-around/takeoff power is established and the airplane is accelerating, smoothly pitch up to establish a positive rate of climb. In many airplanes--especially if full flaps have been applied--pitching up will be done for you as the combination of full power and extended flaps tends to force the airplane's nose up rather abruptly. Thus, significant nose-down pressure on the pitch control may be required.

We'd argue against doing much with the pitch trim control at this point. Presumably, you've trimmed the airplane for its final approach speed, which usually isn't that different from [V.sub.Y]. Applying full or go-around power will definitely result in a pitch up you might want to trim away, but--if all continues to go well--in a few moments you'll be retracting the flaps, which will usually remove most of the need to re-trim. In our view, maintaining a healthy push on the pitch control until you can get the flaps starting up reduces your workload. And during a go-around, keeping the workload manageable is key. Regardless, it's still your responsibility to establish and maintain a pitch attitude appropriate to the maneuver.


Once the airplane is climbing, adjust pitch for the desired airspeed. With full or partial flaps extended, this could be something well below its best rate of climb airspeed, [V.sub.Y]. If obstacle avoidance is an issue, [V.sub.X], best angle of climb, should be the target. Again, however, with flaps out, the desired initial speed may be lower. Which brings us to getting the flaps retracted, and how.

With that positive rate of climb--and only then--begin to retract, but not suddenly stow, the flaps. Presuming full flaps have been deployed, we always prefer to remove about half of them first, let the airplane stabilize, and only then retract them fully. This works well whether the flaps are manual, hydraulic or electric.

There are a number of reasons for this two-stage flap retraction, not least of which is preventing the airplane from sagging back to the runway. Presumably, the runway is where you don't want to be, or you wouldn't be going around. Why risk getting closer to it than you need? Instead, "milk" them up (where this reference came from, we don't know ...) a notch at a time.

Finally, for those flying folding wheels, retract the gear, accelerate to whatever speed you want and move on to dealing with what went wrong.

So, again, PPFG: Power to arrest the descent; Pitch to establish climb; Flaps, only after gaining altitude with a positive rate of climb; Gear stowed.


Once stable and climbing, announce the go-around--if you didn't do that already--and, once clear of the runway, rejoin the pattern. Or ... make a new decision.

Regardless of how diligent you are about checklists, this is a "normal abnormal" procedure, the practice of which until it's rote muscle-memory-driven routine can greatly improve execution. Remember, going around is a successful decision--not a failure--that lets you survive to try again. But, now you have a new decision: Re-enter the pattern and try again, divert to a nearby airport with more suitable conditions or go somewhere to loiter and wait out whatever caused you to go around.

What you do after you've successfully executed a go-around depends on the reason you opted to abort the last approach. By the time you make the go-around decision you should already know why you're going around. If the reason had to do with traffic on the runway, it probably won't be there next time. If it involved adverse conditions--like a gusty crosswind--it likely will be there next time.

If you were the problem, you get to correct the mistakes on the next attempt. That means hitting the right altitudes, making the turns at the positions appropriate for conditions, crabbing as needed to counter a crosswind, and managing final with power on a constant-airspeed descent.


Flub the approach a second time and you should move into diverting mode. What do you next take into consideration? Well, a divert field's proximity and runway length should be top priorities, particularly if you're ending a long flight and fuel is a concern.

And that's the first factor to weigh against any alternate: Is fuel sufficient to get there and endure another go-around? After all, there is no guarantee against facing another go-around elsewhere--short, that is, of opting to seek forgiveness later and land on a taxiway, adjacent grass or some other similarly decision likely to be viewed dubiously by our friendly aviation agency.

And think hard about heading to an airport with more-challenging conditions than what you decided to abandon--say, one with a shorter runway when length has been the issue.

RELATED ARTICLE: How Risky Is A Go-Around?

Assessing the risk of a go-around must account for a variety of factors, not least of which is the risk associated with continuing the approach and landing. As this article's main text discusses, go-arounds do impose a risk, but so does landing atop another airplane.

As the accompanying graphs depict, the go-around is the least risky maneuver when close to a runway, but is more lethal (has a higher fatality rate) than landing. We attribute this to the deceleration of a landing versus the high-power acceleration of the go-around.

Of course, few accidents close to the runway are attributed to mechanical malfunctions. Instead, as the pie chart demonstrates, pilot-related causes comprise the vast majority of accident causes.
Accidents by Category

                       Total  Fatal

Takeoff/Initial Climb  22.6%  19.5%
Approach                8.9%  16.6%
Landing                35.4%   5.4%
Go-Around               2.6%   2.2%

Note: Table made from bar graph.

Lethality Index

Takeoff/Initial Climb  17.1%
Approach               37.4%
Landing                 3.0%
Go-Around              16.5%

Note: Table made from bar graph.

Approach, Landing, and Go-Around Accident Causes

Powerplant (malfunctions/failure)                          8.1%
Other (gear, brakes, control surfaces, etc.)               6.2%
Aircraft configuration                                     4.6%
Fuel management                                            9.2%
Attitude and airspeed control                             27.2%
Wind                                                      15.8%
Loss of control (not due to wind)                         17.1%
Improper IFR procedures (includes descents below MDA/DH)   3.2%
Other                                                      8.8%

Original charts and data courtesy AOPA ASF.

Note: Table made from pie chart.


As we've noted--here and many times before--a good landing usually results from a good approach. And "good approach" usually means a stabilized one, during which the pilot establishes and maintains an appropriate heading/wind correction, speed, descent rate and pitch attitude for each portion (i.e., downwind, and final) of the approach.

An approach can be deemed stabilized by achieving these criteria no later than reach 500 feet above the runway end:

* Aircraft configured correctly for the approach;

* Appropriate airspeed,

* Correct flight path,

* Appropriate power for the approach configuration,

* Normal angle and rate of descent,

* Only minor corrections needed to correct deviations.

If you miss any of these targets by field elevation plus 500 feet, that would be an excellent time to consider a go-around.

But there's more to do and getting stable by no means takes a go-around off the table. If, for example, as you flare the airplane balloons upward--a sign of excessive airspeed, maybe, or maybe a too-aggressive application of pitch--maybe a go-around is the right thing to do. Maybe holding that pitch attitude to bleed off airspeed is the right thing to do.

Conversely, maybe you fly into a little sink during that last couple of hundred feet and you don't touch down so much as you arrive at the pavement level--and instantly bounce back into the air. Don't hesitate. Instead, aviate and get out of there by performing a go-around. You may not learn until well below 500 feet above the runway you're going to float through the first third of it--another great time to consider the go-around option.

And then there are the wild-card items--like the ones previously inventoried: traffic on the runway, excessive displacement from the centerline, excessive sink--and you manage to catch them before they become a problem, you have a decision to make. If time and space permit, there's nothing wrong with waiting a few moments to see how things might work out. But there's also nothing wrong with using such an event as an automatic trigger to initiate the go-around while you have the altitude and energy to make its a less-dramatic maneuver than it might otherwise be.


Neither the flap nor gear handles should be touched at the beginning of a go-around, goes the consensus opinion--only power and pitch, and only in that order. Why? Well, slowed for a landing approach, low power, not much room between you and terra firma--you figure it out.


Pitching up first increases angle of attack, lowers airspeed and puts the airplane even closer to a stall than before, with a resulting increase in sink rate that could put you on the runway you've decided to avoid for the moment. Few debate this ordering--power then pitch. But the debate persists concerning flaps versus gear; let's deconstruct it right here.

If you read April's Aviation Safety article, "Flaps For Real," you were reminded the devices work through two basic changes to the wing: they deepen its camber and increase its lifting area, thus increasing lift and allowing us to fly at lower speeds.

Take away flaps and those items reverse: the effective airfoil camber returns to normal, and the effective lifting area shrinks--both raising the speed required at a given angle of attack to generate a specific amount of lift. In other words, retracting flaps reduces the wing's effective lift.


So, when we stow flaps, what happens? The airplane will increase its sink rate, since the lift it enjoyed a moment before is now gone. Pitch up all you want in an attempt to restore the lost lift, but you're nibbling closer to a stall, which perhaps should not be your first choice when close to the ground.

Instead, to replace the lost lift, we need to move more air over the wings. Without further changing the flap setting, we accomplish that task by accelerating, which requires using the energy stored in the airplane's altitude and pushing the nose over, or using the energy stored in its fuel tanks and increasing power.

Stow flaps at the start of a go-around--before you arrest your descent--and you simply accelerate progress toward the pavement.

Meanwhile, raising the wheels before arresting a descent and establishing a positive rate of climb could result in touching pavement sans wheels--to the detriment of the prop blades, engine crankshaft, sheet metal and your schedule for the rest of the day.

So until you've established the aircraft on its go-around climb rate and airspeed, leave 'em both alone; then, stow the flaps first--in stages, and only after power has been used to arrest the descent and begin a climb.

Dave Higdon is a professional aviation writer/photographer with several thousand hours of flight time--and a few go-arounds--in hang gliders, ultralights and airplanes.
COPYRIGHT 2010 Belvoir Media Group, LLC
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2010 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback
Title Annotation:STICK AND RUDDER
Author:Higdon, Dave
Publication:Aviation Safety
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Oct 1, 2010
Previous Article:Speed vs. power.
Next Article:Pitot/static checks: the FARs require biennial inspections because a lot can go wrong in 24 months, regardless of whether you fly behind glass or...

Terms of use | Privacy policy | Copyright © 2018 Farlex, Inc. | Feedback | For webmasters