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Why do planes go around?

A go-around occurs when the pilot makes a decision not to continue a landing. It is also called a missed approach, wave-off, rejected or aborted landing. Whatever one chooses to call it, the captain is definitely not going to land!

This term ‘go-around’ originates from the traditional air traffic pattern which is shaped like a racing circuit. If an arriving aircraft could not make a successful landing, it would fly to join the normal circuit pattern.

This term is mostly used by pilots even though a modern jetliner rarely does so nowadays due to its speed but would climb straight ahead instead.

Some pilots personally have their own ‘checklist’ on top of the airline’s procedures. They silently remind themselves of the ‘5 Ups’ actions: Power Up, Nose Up, Gear Up, Flaps Up, Speak Up.

There are often complaints of silence from the captain after an unexpected roar of the engines when one is expected to land and be home soon.

Well, the captain must have forgotten the “Speak Up” part to keep his customers informed!

Have you ever experienced a false illusion whilst in a stationary train and notice the neighboring train starting to move? You may have the illusion that your own train has moved in the opposite direction.

Similarly, a false sensation can also happen in a different way. This may be encountered by a pilot especially in cloudy weather during a go-around

The acceleration of the powerful jet engines may give a false sensation of a steep climb and the automatic response of the pilot is to correct it by pushing the nose down.

On 23 August 2000, an Airbus A320 flew into the sea during a go around at Bahrain because of a false sensation experienced by the pilot in poor weather.

On 12 May 2010, an Airbus A330 descended rapidly and crashed onto the ground at Tripoli based on the same reason.

To overcome these false illusions, pilots are being trained to be aware of such pitfalls and to believe in their flight instruments.

On 22 May 2010, an Air India Express Boeing 737-800 crashed on landing at Mangalore, India.

It was reported that the captain was sleeping (his snoring was captured on the cockpit voice recorder) prior to descent for the landing. The plane crashed because the captain had ignored his co-pilot’s three warnings to go around.

The Standard Operating Procedures of most airlines list down the criteria of a stabilized approach. If the parameters are not met, the pilot must initiate a go-around.

Sometimes pilots don’t like to go around because they hate to waste an approach or were loath to admit that things weren’t working out and worry that it might be perceived as incompetence by the management.

Today, with impunity from the management, pilots are encouraged to go around if it was unsafe to land because, amongst others, the runway was blocked, it was unstable or weather was bad.

An Air India Express Boeing 737-800
Image credit: Allec Joshua Ibay

Source: Quora
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