When, for any reason, it is judged that an approach or landing cannot be continued to a successful landing, a missed approach or go-around shall be flown.
Reasons for discontinuing an approach or landing may 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.
Usually a go-around from an instrument approach should follow the specified missed approach procedure unless otherwise instructed by air traffic control or if safety reasons dictate otherwise.
If a missed approach is initiated below the DA/H in precision approach procedures, or beyond the missed approach point (MAPt) or below MDA/H in non-precision approach procedures pilots must consider if they can still safely follow the published missed approach or if they require a special routing e.g. in case of an engine failure during go-around (e.g. by birdstrike) when, depending on aircraft performance, it may be necessary to follow special engine failure turn procedures or using visual references only.
If a missed approach is initiated before arriving at the missed approach point (MAPt), it is important that pilots proceed to the MAPt (or to the middle marker fix or specified DME distance for precision approach procedures) and then follow 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 if no published missed approach is available.
A go-around is often unexpected and places special demands on the pilots, who may not often have an opportunity to practice this procedure other then in the simulator. Some aspects of the go-around which deserve special study are:
Often, if an emergency or abnormal situation develops during the final stages of an approach, it is likely that the approach will be continued to land. However, in some cases, such as a configuration issue (flaps or gear position), 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 or diverting to a more suitable airfield might be the more prudent course of action.
Accidents and Incidents
The following events occurred during missed approach or involved a missed approach:
On 2 January 2022, an Airbus A350-1000 floated during the landing flare at London Heathrow and when a go-around was commenced, a tail strike accompanied main landing gear runway contact. A subsequent further approach during which the Captain took over as handling pilot was completed uneventfully. The Investigation attributed the tailstrike to a full pitch up input made simultaneously with the selection of maximum thrust when very close to the runway surface, noting that although the initial touchdown had been just beyond the touchdown zone, 2,760 metres of runway remained ahead when the go around decision was made.
On 29 November 2017, a Boeing 737-900 on an ILS approach at Atlanta became unstable after the autothrottle and autopilot were both disconnected and was erroneously aligned with an occupied taxiway parallel to the intended landing runway. A go-around was not commenced until the aircraft was 50 feet above the ground after which it passed low over another aircraft on the taxiway. The Investigation found that the Captain had not called for a go around until well below the Decision Altitude and had then failed to promptly take control when the First Officer was slow to begin climbing the aircraft.
On 1 January 2020, an Airbus A350-900 made an unstabilised night ILS approach to Frankfurt in good visual conditions, descending prematurely and coming within 668 feet of terrain when 6nm from the intended landing runway before climbing to position for another approach. A complete loss of situational awareness was attributed to a combination of waypoint input errors, inappropriate autoflight management and communication and cooperation deficiencies amongst the operating and augmenting flight crew on the flight deck who were all type-rated holders of Thai-issued ATPLs. Neither of the observing pilots detected anything abnormal with the way the approach was being flown.
On 10 September 2017, the First Officer of a Gulfstream G550 making an offset non-precision approach to Paris Le Bourget failed to make a correct visual transition and after both crew were initially slow to recognise the error, an unsuccessful attempt at a low-level corrective realignment followed. This had not been completed when the auto throttle set the thrust to idle at 50 feet whilst a turn was being made over the runway ahead of the displaced threshold and one wing was in collision with runway edge lighting. The landing attempt was rejected and the Captain took over the go-around.
On 3 January 2019, a Boeing 737-500 en-route to Port Harcourt experienced signs of intermittent distress to an engine which subsequently failed during final approach there. After a mismanaged initial response before and after a go around, the failed engine was eventually shut down. After a delay of about 20 minutes, an attempted second approach was discontinued when it could not be stabilised. A third approach was then successfully completed. The engine was damaged beyond economic repair and the Investigation found that the operator had been aware of the intermittent malfunction of both engines over several months but ignored it.
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 occurred 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.
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