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"We are the protagonists of our stories called life, and there is no limit to how high we can fly."

Type rated on A330, B747-400, B747, B757, B767, B737, B727. International Airline Pilot / Author / Speaker. Dedicated to giving the gift of wings to anyone following their dreams. Supporting Aviation Safety through training, writing, and inspiration.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Go Around!

Pilots, If it doesn't look good...

Go Around and Try Again!

As pilots we are trained to do the best we can, make the best decisions possible, and if it doesn't look good get out of there! Meaning go around and do it again. 

Do not react from Fear.
Do not react to immediate gratification 
by forcing something that does not work!

If you are high, fast, off course, and destabilized, it's time to abort this attempt, miss the approach, and go around. Professional pilots do NOT Force a bad approach!

If a fellow crewmember was screaming at you to land in unsafe conditions, how would you respond? 

For me, I would say "NO"
Go-around and do it again. 

And do not allow anyone to coerce you into flying sick!
Enjoy the Journey!

XO Karlene


  1. It's always important to follow our instincts, especially for pilots. If something doesn't feel right, it isn't, and in their case, too much depends on it to do it wrong.

    1. Heather, you know if it doesn't feel right, it probably isn't. Thank you for your comment!

  2. The only difference that I may have with this post is the statement, "Professional pilots do NOT Force a bad approach!" While spotting/watching/listening at a bigish, busy airport, I had an unusually great view during some windy conditions. I was truly shocked at the number of obviously unstable (bad) approaches that were converted into obviously poor landings. Although not a pilot, I've observed more than enough good and bad approaches and landings to usually tell the difference. After several years of intense discussion of the subject, I thought that most professionals were past being reluctant to Go Around. I also understood that virtually all carriers had ceased bothering to ask for routine details after such events. I guess I was mistaken. If it matters, I am familiar with the common approaches to this airport and know what a stable one should look like through the binocs from my vantage point, even on a windy afternoon. It was not pretty and I was surprised.

    1. Good point Craig. I should have said, "Professional pilots "should not" force a bad approach."

      I know of an airline that when they put on the FOQA data (Flight Operations Quality Assurance), monitoring how they flew the plane, almost every flight was an event. Eyes were opened at the culture of "we're going to push it no matter what" and how many errors were made, because of that attitude. Things began to change. Standard operating procedures instilled.
      It's a culture that must changed. We are not paid to be heroes, we are paid to be safe and give the passengers what they want, a safe ride to destination.
      If something doesn't look right, it's time to go-around!
      Thanks for your comment!

  3. Karlene,

    FYI, I am not sure that my comments always make it through the computer filter to your site. Just so you know, I have made several comments in the past month that never were shown.

    On day one of basic flight instruction, every pilot learned that a good approach always precedes a good landing. And that most of the times a bad approach precedes a so called bad landing, but rarely does a horrible approach lead to a crash. I always heard that a good landing is one where the airplane is still useable and everything above that standard was style points.

    However, when someone crashes on landing, the system goes into hyper drive and the lawyers come out of the wood work to legislate what constitutes a safe approach. All they really accomplish is to take control from the pilots and give it to everyone else to critique and punish. Pilots have learned from this system and over the course of years, 99% of us fly more conservatively so that we can keep our jobs but in the process we lose our most precious skillset which is how to fly with the intent of max-performing an airplane.

    We have been threatened with the loss of our licenses so much that we operate so far inside the actual limits of the airplane that we have become the weakest link because we collectively cannot fly our way out of a wet paper bag. I am not advocating being reckless, I am saying that we have no idea what the actual limits of the current aircraft that we are rated in.

    post 1 of 2

  4. post 2 of 3

    Having said that, I am very happy to have a written definition of a stable approach. I love having a rock solid benchmark that requires the aircraft to pass before descending below an altitude. But having that rock solid definition also confines the collective experience in aviation that we all have earned an hour at a time because there are days when the airplane is not going to be classically stable according to a piece of paper. Using Craig's example above, were the airplanes stable? I don't know and you don't and he doesn't either because we don't know the actual conditions that existed at 500 feet. But it seems that every aircraft was actually landing on the day that he referenced and how can you, I or he judge what a poor landing felt like? Was it firm and in a crab? I have had a bunch of those and honestly they were actually good landings considering the conditions. I have had the same landings in calm conditions and I would consider them acceptable only because the airplane was able to be used again.

    Back to the day Craig described, was it a 30 knot tail wind that was transitioning to a five knot headwind at the surface? No airplane can be classically stable with a big tailwind but everyone from the CEO of the airline to the person sitting in last class expects the pilots to be able to safely land in all conditions. What do you tell you’re Chief Pilot when you divert your airplane because of a crosswind that is within ops-spec limits but every other airplane was able to safely land in the same conditions? You can claim safety but the fact is that you were unable to operate the aircraft in weather that was within the prescribed limits of the airplane. You will keep your job but you should expect a line check in the very near future.

    Without knowing your operations manual specifically, I expect that your airline and mine are similar and we are expected to fly approaches and landings with at least a 10 knot tailwind. I have found that we should expect that the airspeed will be very close to ten knots above the target speed, the engines will be at or very near idle and the descent rate will be more than 1000 feet per minute passing the 500 foot stable required altitude.

    Is that an automatic go-around? According to a lawyer, yes. According to every pilot that lands at the airport, it is probably ops normal. My issue is that when the rules are so firm and concretely then the pilot has no recourse except to divert or break the rules. There is no ability for the pilot to rely on their experience and ability to collectively operate the aircraft to a safe landing. There might be a blurb about Captains judgement but the fact is that if anything goes wrong the first question is why did you continue if you were not stable? Even if the incident had nothing to do with being stable.

  5. post 3 of 3

    I am not arguing that we should turn back the clock 50 years and we all fly like knucklehead cowboys because I do like having set criteria that defines what is stable/unstable. Most of the landings we do are in VMC and calm winds. Just two weeks ago, I was the PM and at 500 feet called out "Unstable, airspeed." because we were 12 knots over the calculated landing speed. Were we in any danger of dying? No. Was the Captain wrestling the airplane or making a heroic attempt to save a bad approach? No. We were flying a light airplane and we were slammed dunked by ATC, he was just 2 knots faster than the prescribed limit.

    But the rules are the rules and I get paid to follow the rules. He was outside the set parameters and my job was to announce it to him. To his credit, because he is also a professional pilot, he initiated the go-around immediately and we flew a left hand visual pattern. The extra pattern cost us 5 minutes of sleep, a short report to complete the paperwork, and 30 seconds of extra debrief. The point is that it isn't a big deal to go-around but it is a big deal when the go-around is dictated by rule that is inflexible and is unable to account for unexpected flight conditions and the professional pilots are unable to use their experience to safely land the airplane. It is a big deal when that one day comes and we as professional pilots are expected to be able to max perform the airplane so that we can safely land the airplane. But since we operate so far inside the safety margin that we don’t actually know what the airplane will do and we don’t know how to coax the extra 10% out of the jet so that we can live to fly another day.

    I think of Sully and Haynes when I write this and I think of all the unfortunate souls that didn’t have the experience to know their airplane so intimately when the time called for that knowledge to be put to use. I think of it every time I slowdown 5 miles early when flying a visual approach to intercept the glideslope and drive it in from there because that is an opportunity to learn what the airplane will really do but because it is so ingrained in us to be stable that I don’t want to be “that guy” so I just do like I did on day 1 of training and fly it ultra-conservatively. Maybe it is on me, maybe it is on the lawyers, maybe the FAA and maybe it is just something that I think of and no one else is concerned about it.

    thanks for the topic and the time to express my thoughts.

    1. Rob, Thank you for the great comment. I just checked comments awaiting moderation and there were only a couple spams. So, I do agree with your comments, and in the event of safety... there are times you have to push it because going around might not be the better option in a plane. We as pilots weigh those options and make those decisions in situations that there might be a safer course of action. There is an example in Flight For Safety where a CA removed the approach at GS intercept, in a foreign country, weather, down...but there were other circumstances.... the choice once re-inserted and behind a stable profile, had to be made. No time to think and discuss. What was the safest course of action? That's why they pay us the big bucks to make those decisions. Speaking of big bucks...

      Re-read the post, and then click over to the fear links and gratification. There is a concessionary contract in the making during the best times in history. Watch the video and know that is the MEC chairman screaming fear and threatening pilots what would happen if they didn't vote for it. I'm thinking sometimes in life, like in a plane, if it doesn't look good... get out of there and do it again. Don't be afraid to make the "right" decision of what might happen. Because the right decision is what they pay us to do, as you cannot proceduralize everything. We do need know how to think, and it we should never decide based on fear.
      Thanks so much for your comment(S)


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