Firstly, I completely agree that a go around as a passenger is an uncomfortable experience that can instil fear in most. When you’re expecting to land and then at the last minute feel this huge surge of power, you start to climb again and you don’t know whats going on, it’s not exactly what you want to happen!
So take a moment to read the below on how a go around is a completely standard, safe and practiced procedure that pilots are trained to do and do so on a somewhat regular basis.
What is a go around?
A go around is when an aircraft that is planning to land makes the decision, to ensure the safety of the aircraft, to abort the landing. If done after touching down it is know as a baulked landing.
The video below shows a Concorde coming in for a landing at Heathrow Airport. It performs a go around due to another aircraft being on the runway.
How do we initiate a go around?
Pilot in command “Go around Flaps”
Pilot monitoring “Flaps 20”
Pilot monitoring on the radio “ Tower Charlie Kilo 29 going around”
ATC “Charlie Kilo 29 Roger”
Once the decision has been made, called and initiated by the pilot flying it is simply a case of applying max thrust and pitching up to fly safely away from the ground. This is why you might not hear anything from your pilots for a while, they are busy flying, communicating with ATC and setting up for another approach or diversion.
Avgeeks read on for more detail …
The pilot in command calls for the go around selects go around thrust (max) and flies the aircraft pitching up to a specified datum. The pilot monitoring carries out the procedure as instructed by the pilot in command, retracting flaps on schedule and selecting the gear up whilst informing air traffic control.
The gear is retracted on schedule when a positive rate of climb is established, except in the case of wind-shear (sudden change in wind direction and speed), where the aircraft configuration (gear and flaps) is left until the aircraft is clear of wind-shear, so not to destabilise the aircraft further.
Why would you go around?
Just a few examples:
Loss of situational awareness - losing an awareness the full scope of your task - flying, controlling or maintaining an aircraft
A malfunction that jeopardises the completion of the landing - eg. loss of major navigational system or failure of a required system
ATC initiating - eg. blocked runway, not enough aircraft separation)
Destabilised approach - eg. unstable speed/altitude/flightpath
Wind-shear - sudden change of wind velocity and/or direction vertically or horizontally
Adequate visual references not obtained before minima or lost below minima -There are different references for different types of approach but they include things like the runway threshold, touchdown zone and elements of the runway approach lighting
For every landing that we make, we brief the whole procedure before descending. Every runway has a go around procedure and this is something that we brief before EVERY landing.
Another part of the brief is to consider and mitigate any threats, eg. weather, terrain, birds, runway profile to name a few. In the case of strong winds, particular attention would be paid to the steps of the go around procedure including the wind-shear procedure, setting out clear parameters so that both pilots have the same mental model and can instantaneously initiate the actions in accordance to the procedures.
On the approach to land (on finals, ie lined up with the runway to land) airlines have a standard operating procedure that is called a stabilised approach. This criteria consists of parameters, to name a few, unstable speed/altitude/flightpath. These are specific to the aircraft or airline and must be met by 1000ft above the airfield and kept until touchdown. When these are not kept, this is a destabilised approach and a go around must be executed. When in extreme weather the captain will most likely opt to land the aircraft to make use of his experience and exposure to these situations.