Video: Go Around (Missed Approach)

A go-around (sometimes called a missed approach) is a perfectly normal procedure. At the time of writing, I have experienced four go-arounds in approx 3,000 flights – so although it is a normal procedure, it’s also relatively rare. But, you may experience one on your next flight, or maybe you’ve already done so and didn’t know what was going on.

Watch this video of a missed approach with Air Traffic Communications and continue reading the article below where I will discuss possible reasons.

So, now you have seen a view of a missed approach, let’s talk about possible reasons and the procedure involved.

The term ‘missed approach’ is actually a bad one as it implies the pilots have made a mistake. This is not true. It simply means any approach that is not perfect for whatever reason. Therefore, I prefer the term go-around as it’s more accurate. Whatever you choose to call it, it simply means a pilot (or ATC) decide to climb back up, rather than continue with the landing as planned.

What Could Cause a Go-Around?

The most common reasons for a go-around are;

  • Runway incursion – another aircraft is still on the active runway. For example, if the aircraft in front aports take-off then ATC will order a go-around.
  • Landing checklist incomplete – before landing, the pilots must complete a checklist. If this is incomplete before a certain point then a go-around will be instigated.
  • Cabin not secure – if a passenger refuses to put on his/her seatbelt, or similar, then the cabin is not secure and the pilots will not land until it is safe to do so.
  • Unstable approach – if for any reason the approach is not stable then a go-around will be instigated. This can mean coming in too high, too fast, or too slow. If the approach is not perfect then for safety reasons the pilots will climb rather than continue with the landing.
What Happens During a Go-Around?

The procedure is completely normal, and as with everything in aviation there is a set system in place. Every airport has ‘routes’ in place for aircraft that go-around that keep them a safe distance away from other aircraft in the area. Just like there are run-off areas on steep hills on the roads, this ‘route’ is discussed as part of the pre-landing brief by the pilots so that they already know where they are heading.

Following this, if ATC themselves did not order the go-around, then they will now be informed that the pilots have decided to do so. ATC will then give instructions to with regards to altitude, speed and heading to enable separation between other aircraft.

Air Traffic Control and the pilots will then liase with each other with regards to another approach. For example, if there is a problem with a passenger, then the crew may need more time to prepare for another landing. If no time is required, ATC will slot the aircraft back into the landing queue – although it may be required to join a holding pattern for some time depending on how busy the airport is.

Go-arounds are 100% completely normal, and happen all the time. Do not be alarmed. You will be kept well-informed by cabin crew and pilots and there is nothing to worry about.

Comments

  1. Maximo Leon says

    I was flying from Rome to Eindhoven (Netherlands) on July 2010. I have flown many times, and so far I haven’t felt any fear of flying until now (I think). It seemed to me that the pilot (Ryanair) did something very strange, as he approached the runway. The plane started to tilt to the left and right (due to very strong winds we have here in NL) until he landed.. but somehow the front wheels did not touch the ground yet, and that’s when we all heard that terrible noise in which it seems that the pilot forced the front wheels to touchdown, and we heard a “hit” noise coming from the front of the airplane (B737-800).. In my opinion, it would have been better to go-around… I have a flight now with easyJet from Amsterdam to Madrid and then Morocco, we are in the middle of winter, and also strong winds, and by the time of my flight, snow and freezing temperatures will be present, for sure. I have somehow developed a little bit of fear of flying due to my last experience with a low-budget airliner.. In summary, my (open) questions are : 1. How safe is easyJet?. 2. If my fear of flying does not go away, should I move the date of the flight until I feel safe enough to fly?? I also need to add that this fear of flying is both because of my last experience in Ryanair (which I’ll never take again) plus flying in very bad weather + strong winds in Europe.

    Thanks,… awesome, site by the way

    • Anonymous says

      I would say dont worry, budget airline or not the pilots are still qualified and may have worked for a premium airline before, they don’t just get any old man off the street to fly for them. On the snow thing, doesn’t matter what the temperature is on the ground it will be warmer than 35000 feet on a normal day. If it was unsafe, they wouldn’t be flying, or would divert.

  2. Anonymous says

    Great article, and having read this was the only thing that prevented me from having a full blown panic attack on a ‘go-around’ I experienced today. Unfortunately one thing here was wrong – the crew and pilots didn’t keep us fully informed. Despite the fact that passengers were crying and shaking (OK, me included) no one on the cabin crew or the pilots said or did anything to reassure us for the whole 15 minutes between the sharp ascent halfway through landing to when we finally did land. This more than anything scared me because I was sure they’d reassure us if it was reassuring.

    My conclusion from this is that not all airlines and cabin crew are as thoughtful as this website’s owner and his colleagues!

    • says

      Firstly, I’m glad I helped.

      Secondly, how disappointing that nobody said anything to reassure passengers. That should always happen, even if it is just the cabin crew letting you know it’s all ok. Feel free to email me the airline so I can put them on my hitlist!!

  3. Totally scared of flying says

    Holy cow! I had no idea this could happen! I would completely freak out if this happened to me. I’m so glad I read this. How terrifying! =(

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