Making the Non-Routine, Routine

If there is one single maneuver that each of us should expect to be able to execute on any given flight leg, that involves an understanding of each of the 9 Principles of Automation Airmanship, it is the Go-Around. We’re not talking about the go-around maneuver that each of us practiced in training (you know the one, the engine-out missed approach from minimums in IMC conditions); but rather the go-around that is increasingly revealing a weakness in the global pilot community and is done in a highly-automated airplane, in a congested terminal area, often as a result of an unstable approach and sometimes at the end of a very long transcontinental or transoceanic crossing.

In his recent article on the subject, Wayne Rosenkrans writes,

“Important reasons for…pilots to revisit long-held assumptions about the go-around maneuver include the changing nature of go-arounds compared with the circumstances two or three decades ago, and safety implications of the rarity with which they are conducted.”

We’ve written extensively about the topic in this blog over the past few years, and often discuss the relationship of flight deck automation to this challenging maneuver during our work in the field. To show how the role of automation is tightly woven into this critical inflight maneuver, consider this breakdown of the 9 Principles of Automation Airmanship when lined up against just a few go-around related challenges:

Automation Airmanship Principle

What Crews Can Do to Meet the Challenge of a Safe and Smooth Go-Around

1. Planning

“What will be the likely arrival and approach at our destination and can we expect reduced separation between arrivals?”

2. Briefing and Debriefing

“Our stable approach target today is 1500 feet to be fully configured, at all of our target flight path parameters…let’s be sure to make this a top priority at the destination.”

3. Data Entry

“Back me up on the missed approach procedure that we have programmed in the FMS…especially altitudes and airspeed constraints…”

4. Communicating

“Be sure to speak up whenever you see a deviation away from out target stable approach parameters…”

5. Monitoring

“If we are sent around by the tower or approach, be sure to back me up on normal go-around pitch and thrust…”

6. Situational and Mode Awareness

“We’re expecting to do a non-precision approach, so the land mode won’t be available today…we’ll have to stay on top of the profile and ensure that the right modes are active during the approach…”

7.  Workload Management

“I’ll execute the missed approach with use of the autopilot, and let’s be sure not to rush—that could cause us to miss something and result in a loss of separation…”

8. Positive Flight Path Control

“Since it’s VMC and we’re doing the visual, I’ll disconnect the autopilot and autothrottles in the event of a missed approach—I’ll count on you to back me up on flight guidance commands and may even ask you to set speed, heading, and altitude information while I hand-fly.”

9. Logic Knowledge

“The go-around procedure on this ILS-PRM will require that we ignore ILS land-mode guidance until the Localizer and Glideslope break lock…”

In our role as pilots, evaluators, and procedures designers, we often are put in a position to assess how much individual pilots know about the logic of their autoflight systems during the various phases of a go-around. This includes how the system responds when the go-around button or switch is actuated on the “classic” go-around from minimums, to the “unconventional” go-around that often occurs much higher than minimums, or even the go-around that occurs below minimums to include a rejected landing after touchdown on the runway. Arguably, each of these scenarios invokes a different go-around dynamic. Individual crew member knowledge of the logic and behavior of their aircraft’s flight guidance and automatic features is a dramatic multiplier in creating a smooth, elegant, and safe transition to a climb and departure without a loss of separation, the potential for a violation, an over- or under-speed condition, or much worse.

You can ask yourself, now: “Is my knowledge of my airplane’s go-around logic, flight guidance, and automatic flight features at an expert level? How can I eliminate this risk to how I conduct this critical flight maneuver in the future?”

Think about it.

Until our next post, fly safe, and always, fly first.

References: “Go-Around Risks” by Wayne Rosenkrans in the April, 2015 edition of AeroSafety World. Flight Safety Foundation, Washington DC.

Leave a Comment