Why Go Around from an Approach to Land?

Why go around from an approach to land? There are many reasons to go around. When it comes to the ‘How’, be positive! And here are a few useful tips to note..


The News Headlines announce “Jet Near Disaster” and the passenger who disembarks is asked for his recollections. “It was like a normal landing, except with no warning whatsoever the engines revved up loudly, the nose lifted, and we started climbing away from the ground.”

Turns out that the previous jet hadn’t vacated the runway yet, and it was a slow news day. The media reacts as if the pilot flew under the Sydney Harbour Bridge – inverted.

Yet pilots go around1 every day – especially whilst training, and it’s not a newsworthy event. It’s unlikely to even be mentioned in your prized log book – nor even when trying to impress mere mortals at the bar.

flying training, going around, go around
Would you consider a Go-Around for Birds on the threshold?

Going Around

Going around is simply an aborted landing, or a missed approach. Pilots decide on a go around for various reasons but it’s something that needs to be practiced efficiently during training. Once training is over and you have your shiny piece of paper licence in your wallet, you’re probably good enough to never need to go around ever again. Until you need to, and often you’ve become rusty.

Considering that most “loss of control” accidents occur during landing and takeoffs, then it’s no surprise to learn that Go Arounds can also lead to issues. So it’s worth brushing up on your technique.

“In October 2016, a chartered Boeing 737 carrying then-vice-presidential-candidate Mike Pence slid off a runway at New York’s LaGuardia Airport (LGA) after a long landing followed by delayed use of speed brakes and reverse thrust. The runway was wet, which further put the crew at a disadvantage. The event led to a lot of bad press for aviation and LaGuardia’s notoriously short runways.”

Peter A. Bedell, AOPA2

A similar term to the Go Around is the Missed Approach3, although the latter is usually in reference to ‘Going Around’ from an instrument approach procedure in IFR conditions (whereas a Go round is typically a visual procedure occurring within the circuit but most commonly on final approach to land).

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going around to land
You may need to go around for many different reasons including an occupied runway, excessive tailwind, low visual of traffic up ahead or because your ATC directs you to!

Why Go Around? There are many reasons, some of which follow:

  • ATC directs you
  • Nil Clearance to Land
  • Runway Occupied
  • Windshear
  • Excessive Tailwind
  • Excessive Rate Of Descent
  • Steep turn required to line up on Final
  • Not touched down by a set runway position
  • Bad bounce or excessive float on landing
  • Any other reason that concerns you

Note that some of these issues may occur after you’ve crossed the threshold, so avoid thinking that you are committed to land – unless you are operating into a one way mountain airstrip, or that you’ve used up so much runway that you can no longer accelerate and climb away. 

Generally speaking, the earlier that you recognise that you need to take action, and you initiate the Go Around, the better. You can even go around from Downwind or Base legs if need be. 

flying school, go around
Going Around is a fairly simple manoeuvre in fixed-gear trainers, but in complex multi-crew jets it can be much busier

How do you Go Around4? Be positive!

  • Apply power (generally full) and rudder to balance
  • Raise the nose to climb attitude and trim
  • Remove Drag (gear/flaps up) IAW your aircraft operating manual
  • Manoeuvre as required (typically position the aircraft onto the dead side of the circuit/traffic pattern or carry out the published missed approach procedure)
  • Talk on the radio (Broadcast your intentions)
  • Plan your next approach.

Trimming and applying rudder gets you extra Brownie points. As always 🙂

“When air traffic control orders an unexpected go-around, it can take pilots off guard. This happened to me recently when on an ILS approach to Newark’s Liberty International Airport in heavy rain. New York Approach handed us off to tower and as we passed through about 1,000 feet agl, we were ordered to go around. Quick! Recall and state all the callouts and configuration changes for the go-around. Set up the mode control panel with the assigned heading and altitude, et cetera. It’s a busy manoeuvre even with two pilots.

Student pilots might be shocked to hear that professional pilots have trouble with go-arounds. After all, students do them all the time. That being said, performing a go-around in a fixed-gear trainer is a pretty simple process compared to an airliner with flap-specific manoeuvring speeds, required callouts, and a multitude of configuration changes. But yes, it’s true. At the professional level, going around is so rare that you can watch some expert pilots turn into Jell-O when the time comes. Hence the focus on the manoeuvre during recurrent simulator training.

Peter A. Bedell, AOPA Magazine

Points to note…

  • There is no Loss Of Face for going around.
  • Full Power is needed in most GA aircraft, take care in higher performance types.
  • Keep aircraft ahead in sight, and move your airplane to avoid traffic ahead and below.
  • Take care when raising flaps – ensure positive rate of climb, raise the landing gear and retract flaps in accordance with your specific aircraft operating manual and conversion training.
  • There is no Loss Of Face for going around.

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Reference List:

  1. ‘Go Around’, Skybrary. Accessed online at https://www.skybrary.aero/articles/go-around on Feb 20, 2023.
  3. Accessed online at https://www.aopa.org/news-and-media/all-news/2018/february/flight-training-magazine/career-pilot-go-around on Feb 20, 2023.
  4. ‘Prevent A Crash: Your Guide To Flying Go-Arounds’, Swayne Martin, Bold Method. Published: Feb 10, 2015. Accessed online at https://www.boldmethod.com/learn-to-fly/maneuvers/your-guide-to-flying-go-arounds/ on Feb 20, 2023.
  5. ‘Pilot Words To Live By: Aviate – Navigate – Communicate’, Level Flight. Accessed online at https://levelflight.ca/blog/pilot-words-to-live-by-aviate-navigate-communicate on Feb 20, 2023.
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4 thoughts on “Why Go Around from an Approach to Land?

  1. Many years ago as a commercial airline pilot , on two separate occasions I was operating into Paris (CDG ). On both occasions I had been cleared to land when a French speaking aircraft was cleared on the runway ahead of me . I had to go around and filed reports regarding ATC infractions . The reply on both times was along the lines of ‘ A pilot has the right to go around at any time ‘.

  2. Disagree with the G/a procedure as listed. First action is to halt the descent. If the approach has been 3degrees as it should be the initially it is required to raise the nose 3degrees plus a bit and apply enough power to protect speed. THEN the balance of power to full power can be applied at a rate than enables coordinated use of balancing rudder. Good for the engine,too.

  3. Second thought. Consider “cleared to land” or a vacant runway as a permission. “Go around” or any other condition that makes landing undesirable as an instruction.

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