Aircraft loss of control (LOC) is still Public Enemy #1 for the FAA. LOC during a go around remains a problem in general aviation that still results in aircraft and human damage. And it shouldn’t be.
There have been many very good articles written on the subject so the issue is getting a lot of attention. Yet we continue to bend airplanes. In my opinion the issue is a simple matter of execution – execution of what is actually a very simple maneuver. The tendency seems to be a sense that everything about the go around needs to be done right now!! Nothing could be more wrong. So how do we break that sense of rush?
To do that, let’s separate the components of the go around and figure a way to eliminate the panic. But first let’s understand that a go-around is really just a series of very simple maneuvers.
The first step in the go around is deciding to go-around, whether we are in the flare on a beautiful VFR day because a flock of baby ducks is walking across the runway or if we have just arrived at the Decision Height on a hard IFR day. Once you decide to go-around, don’t waffle – do it!! Do the go-around!!
The first element of the maneuver is ‘Pickle, Pitch, Power.’ ‘Pickle’ will mean something different by whatever plane you are flying but basically it means punch the go-around button, kick off the autopilot, whatever is appropriate to your plane. ‘Pitch’ means exactly that – pitch up to the command bars or if you are flying raw data, start with 7.5° pitch up which is a pretty typical go-around pitch attitude. Finally, add power, make some noise. And I am not a big proponent of jamming in full power. You are at the end of your flight, not heavy, etc. Just add near full power – that will be enough to get you away from the ‘bad stuff’ – you can fine tune the power in a bit. And DON’T FORGET to bring the right rudder in at about the same pace as you advance the power – keep the ball in the middle!! Most go-around accidents end up on the left side of the runway from the pilot not adding that right rudder so be assertive with it – keep the nose going straight.
The second step is ‘Fly, Fly, Fly.’ Make sure the plane is doing what you want it to do – airspeed is near best rate, the wings are level, you’re holding the heading and the VSI is going in the right direction. This is a separate step of the go-around maneuver.
Third, clean the plane up by retracting the gear and flaps. It’s important here to be aware of your configuration. If the flaps are fully deployed, bring those up to half flaps first, then gear up then flaps all the way up. If you only used half or approach flaps, bring the gear up first. As a general rule of thumb, if the plane has propellers I generally use just half or approach flaps unless there are special considerations. In a jet we almost always use full flaps on the approach.
Next? ‘Fly, Fly, Fly.’ Let’s confirm one more time that the plane is going where we want it to go – Still climbing? Good Airspeed? Holding a heading? All good!!
Next, Automate and Navigate. This will vary by the approach and what kind of radios you have in your aircraft. But, basically, use the autopilot or flight director or raw data as you wish. Make sure the GPS has the correct waypoint sequenced whether your box does that automatically or if you need to take it off of Suspend (SUSP.) If you are VOR only, it’s probably time to twist a dial to a new course, maybe switch to a different frequency. Know your equipment but make sure that what is shown as your active waypoint is what it should be based on your pre-approach briefing.
Guess what comes next? ‘Fly, Fly, Fly.’ Again, make sure the plane is still going where it is supposed to be going. By now there may be an altitude related change in heading or course. Now is a good time to do that.
And finally, now it is okay to key that microphone and tell ATC what you have done. Way too many times, the pilot grabs the mic first and that is just so wrong and obviously gets in the way of what is most important – flying the plane.
Just remember that if it is a VFR day and you’ve been cleared to land or given the option, the runway belongs to you. If it is IFR, unless you are flying in to the small number of major airports that allow simultaneous IFR approaches, the airport belongs to you until you cancel your IFR flight plan or the tower sees you taxiing in. Get the airplane flying and climbing – you were pointed at the runway and last time I checked they don’t plant trees or buildings in the middle of the runway. Take your time and get the airplane going up and away from the bad stuff. Again, calling the tower is the last thing you want to do when executing a go-around, regardless of the weather.
Practice this in the comfort of your chair. You will be amazed at how little time this actually takes. Close your eyes and move your hand around the ‘cockpit.’ Time yourself. You’ve got plenty of time.
Robert L. Stedman
Independence Aviation, LLC – Colorado Flight School