Missed Approach

Missed Approach


When, for any reason, it is judged that an approach cannot be continued to a successful landing, a missed approach or go-around is flown.

Reasons for discontinuing an approach include the following:

  • The aircraft is not positioned so as to allow a controlled touch down within the designated runway touchdown zone with a consequent risk of aircraft damage with or without a Runway Excursion if the attempt is continued;
  • The runway is obstructed;
  • Landing clearance has not been received or is issued and later cancelled;
  • A go-around is being flown for training purposes with ATC approval.

Missed Approach Procedure

A missed approach procedure is the procedure to be followed if an approach cannot be continued. It specifies a point where the missed approach begins, and a point or an altitude/height where it ends. (ICAO Doc 8168: PANS-OPS)

A missed approach procedure is specified for all airfield and runway Precision Approach and Non-Precision Approach procedures. The missed approach procedure takes into account de-confliction from ground obstacles and from other air traffic flying instrument procedures in the airfield vicinity. Only one missed approach procedure is established for each instrument approach procedure.

A go-around from an instrument approach should follow the specified missed approach procedure unless otherwise instructed by air traffic control.

The missed approach should be initiated not lower than the DA/H in precision approach procedures, or at a specified point in non-precision approach procedures not lower than the MDA/H.

If a missed approach is initiated before arriving at the missed approach point (MAPt), it is important that the pilot proceeds to the MAPt (or to the middle marker fix or specified DME distance for precision approach procedures) and then follows the missed approach procedure in order to remain within the protected airspace. The MAPt may be overflown at an altitude/height greater than that required by the procedure; but in the case of a missed approach with a turn, the turn must not take place before the MAPt, unless otherwise specified in the procedure.

The MAPt in a procedure is defined by:

  • the point of intersection of an electronic glide path with the applicable DA/H in precision approaches; or,
  • a navigation facility, a fix, or a specified distance from the final approach fix in non-precision approaches.

A visual go around may be made after an unsuccessful visual approach.

A go-around is often unexpected and places special demands on the pilots, who may not often have an opportunity to practice this procedure. Some aspects of the go-around which deserve special study are:

Often, if an emergency or abnormal situation develops during the approach, the approach will be continued to land. However, in some cases, such as a configuration issue, performing a missed approach, completing the appropriate drills and checklists to prepare for a non-standard approach and then conducting a second approach to a landing is the more prudent course of action.

Accidents and Incidents

The following events occurred during missed approach or involved a missed approach:

On 20 December 2019, an Airbus A318 making a tailwind ILS approach to Toulon-Hyères with the autopilot engaged and expecting to intercept the glideslope from above had not done so when reaching the pre-selected altitude and after levelling off, it then rapidly entered a steep climb as it captured the glideslope false upper lobe and the automated stall protection system was activated. Not fully following  the recovery procedure caused a second stall protection activation before a sustained recovery was achieved. The Investigation noted Captain's  relative inexperience in that rank and a First Officer's inexperience on type.

On 23 May 2022, an Airbus A320 came extremely close to collision with terrain as the crew commenced a go around they did not obtain any visual reference during a RNP approach at Paris CDG for which they were using baro-VNAV reference to fly to VNAV/LNAV minima. The corresponding ILS was out of service. The Investigation has not yet completely established the context for the event but this has been confirmed to include the use of an incorrect QNH which resulted in the approach being continued significantly below the procedure MDA. Six Interim Safety Recommendations have been issued.

On 22 August 2019, a Boeing 737-800 positioning visually from downwind after accepting clearance to make an approach to and landing on runway 03L at Hyakuri instead lined up on temporarily closed runway 03R and did not commence a go around until around 100 feet agl after seeing a vehicle on the runway and the painted runway threshold identification. The Investigation concluded that the event occured due to the captain not thoroughly performing the visual recognition of runway, and the FO not adequately monitoring the flight status of the aircraft thus failing to correct the runway misidentification made by the Captain.

On 6 June 2020, a Boeing 787-10 on approach at Abu Dhabi began a low go around from an RNAV(RNP) approach when it became obvious to the crew that the aircraft was far lower than it should have been but were unaware why this occurred until an ATC query led them to recognise that the wrong QNH had been set with recognition of the excessively low altitude delayed by haze limiting the PAPI range. The Investigation found that advice of MSAW activations which would have enabled the flight crew to recognise their error were not advised to them.

On 19 October 2015, an ATR 72-600 crew mishandled a landing at Ende, Indonesia, and a minor runway excursion occurred and pitch control authority was split due to simultaneous contrary inputs by both pilots. A go around and diversion direct to the next scheduled stop at Komodo was made without further event. The Investigation noted that the necessarily visual approach at Ende had been unstable with a nosewheel-first bounced touchdown followed by another bounced touchdown partially off-runway. The First Officer was found to have provided unannounced assistance to the Captain when a high rate of descent developed just prior to the flare. 

On 4 February 2020, an Airbus A350-900 initiated a go around from its destination approach at 1,400 feet aal following a predictive windshear alert unsupported by the prevailing environmental conditions but the First Officer mishandled it and the stop altitude was first exceeded and then flown though again in a descent before control as instructed was finally regained four minutes later. Conflict with another aircraft occurred during this period. The Investigation concluded the underlying cause of the upset was a lack of awareness of autopilot status by the First Officer followed by a significant delay before the Captain took over control.

On 14 October 2019, a Sikorsky S92A manoeuvring below low cloud in poor daylight visibility in an unsuccessful attempt to locate the intended private landing site flew north towards rising ground approximately ¾ mile east of it, coming within a recorded 28 feet above terrain near to occupied houses before making an emergency climb and over-torqing the engines followed by an unstable but successful second approach. The Investigation found relevant operator procedures absent or ineffective, an intention by the management pilot in command to reach the landing site despite conditions and uncertainty about the applicable regulatory context for the flight. 

On 16 July 2020, an Antonov AN26 on which a new Captain’s final line check was being performed made two consecutive non-precision approaches to Runway 33 at Birmingham both of which resulted in ATC instructing the aircraft to go around because of failure to follow the prescribed vertical profile. A third approach using the ILS procedure for runway 15 was successful. On the limited evidence available, the Investigation was unable to explain the inability to safely perform the attempted two non precision approaches to runway 33 or the continuation of them until instructed to go around by ATC.

On 24 July 2019, whilst a Sikorsky S92A was commencing a second missed approach at the intended destination platform, visual contact was acquired and it was decided that an immediate visual approach could be made. However control was then temporarily lost and the aircraft almost hit the sea surface before recovery involving engine overtorque and diversion back to Halifax. The Investigation concluded that the crew had failed to safely control the aircraft energy state in a degraded visual environment allowing it to enter a vortex ring condition. As context, operator procedures, Flight Manual content and regulatory requirements were all faulted. 

On 29 January 2015, a Boeing 737-800 crew attempting to fly an NDB approach to Bergerac, with prior awareness that it would be necessary because of pre-notified ILS and DME unavailability, descended below 800 feet agl in IMC until an almost 1000 feet per minute descent when still over 8 nm from the runway threshold triggered an EGPWS ‘TERRAIN PULL UP’ warning and the simultaneous initiation of a go-around. The Investigation found that the PF First Officer was unfamiliar with NDB approaches but had not advised the Captain which resulted in confusion and loss of situational awareness by both pilots.

On 2 September 2016, an ATR72-600 cleared to join the ILS for runway 28 at Dublin continued 800 feet below cleared altitude triggering an ATC safe altitude alert which then led to a go around from around 1000 feet when still over 5nm from the landing runway threshold. The Investigation attributed the event broadly to the Captain’s inadequate familiarity with this EFIS-equipped variant of the type after considerable experience on other older analogue-instrumented variants, noting that although the operator had provided simulator differences training, the -600 was not classified by the certification authority as a type variant.

On 12 April 2019, a Boeing 717-200 commenced a go around at Strasbourg because the runway ahead was occupied by a departing Bombardier CRJ700 which subsequently, despite co-ordinated TCAS RAs, then came to within 50 feet vertically when only 740 metres apart laterally as the CRJ, whose crew did not see the 717, passed right to left in front of it. The Investigation attributed the conflict primarily to a series of flawed judgements by the TWR controller involved whilst also noting one absent and one inappropriate ATC procedure which respectively may have provided a context for the resultant risk.

On 1 June 2019, a Boeing 737-800 was instructed to go around after it was observed to be significantly below the vertical profile for its RNAV approach as it reached the procedure minimum descent altitude. Having then climbed less than 300 feet, the aircraft began to descend, reaching 457 feet agl before resuming its climb. The Investigation found that the terrain proximity on approach followed a failure to discontinue a comprehensively unstable approach and the terrain proximity episode during the go around was due to continued following of the Flight Director which was providing guidance based on incorrect mode selections.

On 10 September 2017, an Airbus A380-800 cleared for an ILS approach at Moscow Domodedovo in visual daylight conditions descended below its cleared altitude and reached 395 feet agl whilst still 7nm from the landing runway threshold with a resultant EGPWS ‘PULL UP’ warning. Recovery was followed by an inadequately prepared second approach which was discontinued and then a third approach to a landing. The Investigation attributed the crew’s difficulties primarily to failure to follow various routine operating procedures relating to use of automation but noted that there had been scope for better presentation of some of these procedures.

On 27 February 2016, an Airbus A320 making an into-sun visual approach to Jaipur in hazy conditions lined up on a road parallel to the intended landing runway and continued descent until an EGPWS ‘TOO LOW TERRAIN’ Alert occurred at 200 feet agl upon which a go-around was initiated. The Investigation found that although the First Officer had gained visual reference with both road and runway at 500 feet agl, the Captain had seen only the road and continued asking the First Officer to continue descent towards it despite the First Officer’s attempts to alert him to his error.

Related Articles

Further Reading

EUROCONTROL, European Regions Airline Association, and Flight Safety Foundation

Flight Safety Foundation

The Flight Safety Foundation ALAR Toolkit provides useful training information and guides to best practice. Copies of the FSF ALAR Toolkit may be ordered from the Flight Safety Foundation ALAR website.

Flight Data Services Case Studies

Go-Around Safety Forum

Airbus Descent Management Briefing Notes



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