UAs, GAs, and Automation (Part 3 of 3): “Keep Calm and Go Around”

This is the last installment of our discussion of unstable approaches (UAs) and go-arounds (GAs): the part that we think might have the most impact on our industry if it could be adopted across every operation, in some form (if you haven’t read the previous two posts, it might be a good idea to do that before reading on).

We think there are a few key elements that go into a smooth, well-managed go-around when pilots encounter this often rare in-flight maneuver:

  1. When briefing the arrival and approach, be as attentive to the details of the go-around procedure as you are the approach and landing (reference Automation Airmanship Principle Two, Briefing and Debriefing);
  2. Know (and brief) the unstable approach criteria for your operation as part of every approach and landing briefing (for both instrument and visual approaches), and reinforce your crew’s commitment to comply with them at a rate of 100%;
  3. Brief the role of autoflight, flight guidance and “decision support systems” (terrain displays, weather radar, etc.) as they each impact the go-around procedure;
  4. Once in the go-around, do these things, in this order:

    1. Fly First – keep the aircraft on the cleared flight path;
    2. Don’t rush – taking your time will allow you to process cues surrounding the rapid change in the direction of the flight path without missing critical flight guidance cues, radio calls, or checklist items;
    3. Check the flight guidance solution and autoflight status (autothrottles engaged? autopilot on?) against the actual flight path and clearance.

Remember that go-arounds might be one of the most practiced maneuvers in the simulator, but the real world provides many more challenges that can complicate even the most straight-forward go-around. We think that adopting the four steps above will lead to a rapid reduction in UAs that result in unsafe landings, and much smoother and safer go-arounds. What do you think?

Until our next report, fly safe and fly first.

Memphis, Tennessee 

October 2013

1 thought on “UAs, GAs, and Automation (Part 3 of 3): “Keep Calm and Go Around””

  1. I believe the issue has to do with mindset and expectation management. Most pilots assume we are going to land and when that expectation isn’t realized we are surprised and must transition to a missed. Depending on equipment this miss may require transition from automated flight to manual flight and then back to automated flight. It there is a more difficult phase of flight I am unaware of it. If the mindset / expectation was that we are flying a instrument procedure (vs approach) that will only be terminated if we see the runway at the appointed time, the missed would lose its element of surprise. I’d rather be surprised to see the runway than not


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