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.