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Pilot Decision Making


Lindell Wilson, WVFC CFI

Decision Making –   Go-Around, “When and How”

During a recent online pilot discussion focused on go-arounds, several pilots posed questions including “When and How” to perform a go-around. The pilots generally agreed that a go-around should be performed anytime a safe (low risk) landing cannot be made. A pilot’s decision to go-around might be the result of a non-stabilized approach (fast, slow, high, low), wind, runway obstruction, or other aircraft on the runway. The online discussion quickly focused on “what-if” an aircraft taxis onto the runway as you are on final approach?

The Aeronautical Information Manual (AIM, see note1) describes many situations “When” a go-around should be initiated, but the AIM provides few details on “How” to maneuver in the pattern during a VFR go-around. In addition, most aircraft POHs include an aircraft operational checklist for the go-round (power, pitch, airspeed, gear, flaps, etc), but again nothing regarding maneuvering in the pattern.

The Airplane Flying Handbook (see note2) specifically describes a go-around maneuver as a result of another aircraft on the runway conflict.  “… If the go-around was initiated due to conflicting traffic on the ground or aloft, the pilot should maneuver to the side, so as to keep the conflicting traffic in sight. This may involve a shallow bank turn to offset and then parallel the runway/landing area…” Reading between the lines, a side step to the right of the runway centerline will provide a left seat pilot a great view of the runway environment below and the conflicting aircraft.

The Pilot/Controller Glossary (see note3) mentions the go-around and how to rejoin the traffic pattern. "GO AROUND- Instructions for a pilot to abandon his/her approach to landing. Additional instructions may follow. Unless otherwise advised by ATC, a VFR aircraft or an aircraft conducting a visual approach should overfly the runway while climbing to traffic pattern altitude and enter the traffic pattern via the crosswind leg…." Additional information on traffic patterns can be found in Advisory Circular AC 90-66A (see note4) titled Recommended Standard Traffic Patterns and Practices for non-towered airports.

Now that we have some of the go-around “When and Hows”, we can safely go fly and enjoy the great weather.

Note1 – Aeronautical Information Manual, page 5-4-21 Missed Approach

Note2 – Airplane Flying Handbook, FAA publication, page 18 first paragraph

Note3 – Pilot/Controller Glossary, FAA publication, see Go-Around section

Note4 - Advisory Circular (AC 90-66A) Recommended Standard Traffic Patterns and Practices...$FILE/AC90-66A.pdf