#4 The Go-Around

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Tailwheeler’s Journal #4
The Go-Around
If there ever was a pilot operation exemplifying the fact that every situation is different, it’s the Go-Around. Because I’ve helped make it an issue in the minds of my students, I thought I’d make it the subject of this Tailwheeler’s Journal.
Those who’ve flown with me or read the section of my book on this subject know that I think that the vast majority of go-arounds are needless. They deprive many pilots of the need to practice more exact accuracy landings. Since I’m so against the practice of mindless go-arounds, isn’t it appropriate that I’ve attached the infamous “Landing at Gualalupe” video that has become viral on the internet? This video provides a perfect example of a situation in which a go-around was clearly indicated. Either the pilot was fixed on that landing with a “my mind’s made up, don’t confuse me with the facts” attitude or there was some reason such as mechanical failure or bingo fuel that made a go-around an unattractive option for him (we stick our necks out when we infer details about an incident about which we have no first hand knowledge and I’ll admit that my neck is out on this one).
There are several reasons I’m against routine go-arounds, but there are a couple of situations that don’t come under that heading: Obviously, if you can’t stop on the runway left to you, GO AROUND. If the runway becomes obstructed by other traffic, GO AROUND. But if you can simply slow down on the approach in order to give traffic the opportunity to clear, why not do so? Oh, afraid to fly slow? Cancel your subscription to “Tailwheeler’s Journal”. Is accuracy the issue? Then practice your accuracy. There isn’t one of us flying who doesn’t have some areas of weakness that we ought to practice. Interestingly, one of mine is…wait for it… POWER-OFF ACCURACY. Do you know which way most pilots goof when it comes to flying power off accuracy landings? Overshoot. Few pilots undershoot, most tend to overshoot. I know it’s MY favorite screwup. There are some common techniques to help hone landing accuracy, the most common
being to judge whether the target is moving up or down in your line of sight. One of my tailwheel students told me years ago that he figured he always floated a certain distance during the flare, so he just aimed for a point that much closer to allow for it. Hooray for his common sense approach to this problem. He did very accurate power off approaches, too.
I would have to say that the art of power off accuracy approaches and landings is losing favor as more pilots dream up excuses not to practice it (“I have to avoid over-cooling that engine…”). As a result, few are able to land accurately power off. If you don’t want that particular chicken to come home to roost, practice. I’m particularly fond of placing a pilot about five hundred feet above pattern altitude right over the runway numbers before failing the engine and asking for an accuracy landing. Virtually everyone rushes all turns with the result that they end up high and hot. Good thing there’s no beach at the end of the Sunriver runway.
So let’s all keep that chicken off his favorite roost and go out to practice the power-off accuracy landing. If you ever have a real engine failure, your friends and family will be grateful that you did.
Happy (power off) landings,