Why do we sometimes go around just when we are landing?

You are landing. Everything is silent in the cabin and just when your aircraft was about to touch down, you noticed the engine power up or spool up. Instead of landing in the runway, your aircraft seems to be taking off again for another attempt to land. What you indeed experienced was a "go around", and this is basically a very normal procedure. There is nothing wrong with it and it is done for safety reasons.

Credit: Airbus
Yes your flight might be late which is of course irritating but you would rather be late due to a go around than face imminent danger if the pilot decides to touch down despite warnings that it is not safe to do so.

Here, we discuss why we experience "go arounds", why they are done, and why there is nothing to be afraid of.

There are indeed various reasons why pilots would make a decision to rather go around than to land the aircraft. Landing is the most dangerous phase in every flight, in fact, a landing is also known as a "controlled crash". These reasons are based on a lot of factors.

A common factor is unstable approach or an obstruction in the runway. Again, all these go back to safety. If pilots think that it is not safe to land, they call a go around. Other factors are hard landings which result to a bounce. A factor may also be attributed to a bad approach like slow speed during the finals. Other factors that may result to a go around are:
  • Pilot cannot get inline with the runway
  • Glideslope is all wrong
  • Overspeed where your aircraft will float about 50 to 100 feet above the runway and will not touch down on the ground due to having too much speed. Effect of this is missing the touchdown zone which may cause the aircraft to run out of runway.
  • Instability because of windshear
  • Traffic avoidance where an aircraft or vehicle is still on the runway during short finalsBasically, a pilot decides to call a go around at low altitudes when he has a clear picture of what is in front. It usually happens during finals.

There are different procedures for different types of aircraft and airports. Different aircraft have different procedures and callouts when applying power for missed approaches. Airports also have different instructions and this is why it is very important for the flight deck crew to review the the approach charts as the instructions for missed approaches are in the charts. If it is a precision approach, then there is a decision altitude (DA) for you to make that decision.

Upon making a decision to go around, the pilots then follow the procedure for climb and the instructions of the airspace. The pilots climb at a certain altitude which is indicated on the approach charts, follow the pattern and setup for another approach.

The landing phase is always the most dangerous phase in a flight. Pilots are always mindful of the separation to avoid any collision, and this is why we do not see them talking during this phase.

While landing, the pilots listen to other pilots to be aware of who are behind, above, and ahead. This is call situational awareness where the pilots should know who are out there, where they care coming from, and their intentions.

A go-around caused by a technical issue is rare as pilots have to land the aircraft as fast as possible. They normally call the attention of the air traffic controller to clear the airspace and to get landing priority if the aircraft is facing serious technical issues.

So if you experience a 'go around', please thank your pilot for ensuring your safety as this procedure is done primarily for the safety of the whole flight and those around. It is a normal procedure so there is nothing to worry about.

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