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Thursday, August 04, 2005

Pilots - Practice Go Arounds, Never Commit To A Landing When In Doubt

I have seen several good and bad flight landings and in a way every landing is an experience by itself. Philip Greenspun writes the Toronto airbus accident will underscore the important point that a pilot should never commit to a landing. There is a temptation in aviation, especially after a long flight, to conduct the approach and landing as though it is inevitable that the plane must continue to descend and stop on the runway. Unless run out of gas or suffered some sort of catastrophic engine failure in a single-engine plane, Philip, an avid flyer highlights, there is nothing inevitable about continuing the approach and landing. A pilot can at any time make the decision to add power and go around. He points out that the airlines have rules about stabilized approaches.The plane should be at the right airspeed, at the right position laterally and vertically, at the right descent rate, and configured for landing when it is still about 1000' above the runway.If not within tolerances, the pilots are directed to go around and, at least in training, they always adhere to these rules.

When the winds are gusty, or the pilot feels tired after a long flight , or thunderstorms are noticed and it isn't obvious where you could go that would be totally safe to land. The rules get bent.In general not nearly enough go-arounds are made by either small or big airplane pilots. Usually the decision to fix a bad approach doesn't result in an accident. And indeed in Toronto, he points out that the flight would have been okay if only they'd been on the 11,000' runway 23 instead of the 9000' 24L (the runways are oriented facing magnetic direction 230 and 240, i.e., almost the same, so it is unclear why the Airbus wasn't assigned the longer runway). The cause of the crash might yet prove to have nothing to do with the pilots' decisions. Nonetheless it is probably a good idea for pilots to remember to keep a hand on the throttle and tell oneself that this is only an approach and that he won't commit to the landing until very nearly stopped on the runway.

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"All views expressed are my personal views are not related in any way to my employer"