A go-around occurs when an aircrew makes the decision not to continue an approach, or not to continue a landing, and follows procedures to conduct another approach or to divert to another airport. Go-arounds can happen at any point from the final approach fix to wheels on the runway (but prior to any deceleration device being activated - e.g. brakes, spoilers, thrust reversers). Each go-around has its own unique challenges.
Go-arounds consist of two elements:
- The decision to go around (weighted against the option to continue the approach) and;
- The execution of the decision.
There are tools available to assist the crew in making the go-around decision. The most common one is the use of stabilized approach criteria. Stabilised Approach criteria have been in use by aviation organizations for over 20 years. They were designed to reduce the risk of Approach and Landing Accidents (ALA). There are recommended elements of a stabilised approach. The specific elements used to define a stabilized approach are not as important as the fact that an organization has some stabilized criteria and they are known and used by their crews. If the parameters of a stabilized approach are not met, organizational standard operating procedures (SOP) normally call for the pilot to initiate a go-around. However, multiple data sources representing millions of flights indicate that more than 9 of every 10 unstable approaches continue to a landing. If the decision is made to go around, the pilot must execute the go-around procedure with minimum risk. To make the appropriate go-around decision the crew must determine which risk is greater, the risk of continuing the approach or the risk of going around. A study by the French Bureau d’Enquetes et d’Analyses (BEA) discussed the risk associated with go-arounds, and it identifies some of the common factors involved in go-around accidents (see Further Reading). These include factors such as night/IMC flight conditions, cockpit distraction, a breakdown in CRM and a lack of monitoring by the pilot not flying. Several studies and surveys have also investigated many of the psychological aspects of the documented reluctance of pilots to make the decision to go-around. These reasons include a normalization of deviance of stabilized approach criteria, continuation bias, and perceived pressure from the organization or from peers. The go-around decision may also be influenced by factors such as ATC directions or the existing environmental conditions.
A go-around is based on several criteria – the first being making the decision to go-around. The go-around decision is based on several inputs, such as stabilized approach criteria, ATC direction, environmental conditions, etc. In making the decision to go around, the crew must determine the least risk option between continuing the approach and executing a go around. Both of these options have elements of risk that can be minimized by the proper use of Standard Operating Procedures.