I Go Around!


Posted on Sep 1, 2019 by Ed Watters

I don’t know about other pilots, but I sure do enjoy listening to music when I fly; it breaks up the boredom and helps keep my mind engaged. Of course my playlist is somewhat ‘80s ADM-driven, Kansas’s “Carry on my Wayward Son” has me soaring ever higher; Journey’s “Wheel in the Sky” reminds me that that my wheel (which would be my propeller) needs to keep turning; Blue Oyster Cult’s “The Reaper” says that seasons don’t fear the reaper, nor does the wind, the sun or the rain, so then why should I? As not to become complacent in my travels, Bon Jovi tells me that in fact I am “Living on a Prayer,” and the Bee Gees are all about “Staying Alive” – now there’s a good idea!

On days when I am flying Sirius XM-equipped aircraft, you will find me on Channel 53 Chill, but during a recent foray to the ‘60s channel, I discovered perhaps another good ADM song by The Beach Boys, “Get Around.” Let’s substitute “Go” for “Get,” ... “Go around, round, round, I go around, I’m a real cool head.” Now those are lyrics we Cirrus pilots should take to heart.

Landing incidents represent 40 percent of single engine, fixed-gear accidents. Don’t be the pilot of this airplane.

Landing incidents represent 40 percent of single engine, fixed-gear accidents and they occur because either the pilot didn’t go around, or the go-around went poorly. Fortunately, these accidents don’t usually result in loss of life; instead we have broken planes, damaged egos and increased insurance premiums. While you can’t argue the fact that if you have to crash a plane, it is best that it’s a Cirrus because of its superiorly engineered safety features, even so some pilots choose never to fly again after an accident.

Why do these accidents happen? We all know the usual culprits; an unstable approach, excessive airspeed and lack of directional control. How about the reasons we don’t like to discuss? Lack of proficiency, rusty hands and feet and the powerful desire to complete the flight the first time, not the second time around. Could we just all agree that a go-around might be a badge of honor, and not a badge of shame?

This year, at our CPPP flight training events, we have focused on the importance of a properly executed go-around, first practicing at altitude, then in the pattern. Admittedly, becoming proficient performing a go-around is easier said than done. When you have to do one for real, it’s when it’s least expected, so creating a training scenario is challenging. My last real one was a couple of years ago at my home airport after flying from Florida with my wife and our boxer on the backside of Hurricane Matthew. Although the sky had cleared, what I thought was a perfect approach turned into quite a bounce as I became victim to turbulence and wind shear. I vividly remember my passengers being quite concerned as it was their first ever balked landing and I also remember getting quite a shot of adrenaline which came in handy getting the plane on the ground the next time around. A go-around maneuver itself is easy; full power ... yes FULL power, stick forward and right rudder. Maintain aircraft control, re-establish your energy, flaps 50 and climb. Don’t fear it; embrace it.

Usually the root cause of a go-around is the pilot falling behind the airplane for numerous reasons. It is often because our cross-country time machines are being programmed and not flown, until very late in the game. Yes, we actually do have to land, so get your hands and feet in the game as soon as practical.

Land here …

... not here. You should "live" on the center line.

Instructors log a lot of flight time, but in a Cirrus, it’s mostly flying with our mouths giving direction, or with our left index finger and thumb. Sitting in the right seat we rarely land an airplane, except when we have to, and that usually occurs in the most challenging of conditions. My golf analogy is walking directly from the parking lot to the first tee without a warmup and using a different set of golf clubs each day. It ages you quickly, which may be why there seems to be only two kinds of flight instructors; those working toward professional pilot careers, and those hoping to keep their medical!

Much has been written about how to land an airplane, and yet instructors tend to run out of words while training pilots. I thought I would share some words that helped me:

Aim point: Let’s keep the plane going where we want it to go.

Centerline: On final approach, create an imaginary dotted line extending from the centerline, that’s where you want your body aligned.

Airspeed: You don’t have to fly a three-mile final at 80 knots, but you better darn be on your number crossing the threshold.

Level & Idle: Hold the airplane level just above the runway, while looking down the runway, not at it. No, we don’t land with power.

Straight: If you are drifting, use your hands, if you are crooked use your feet.

Patience: Landing an airplane isn’t an event, it’s a process. Have patience, let the process play out, don’t rush it.

Don’t let the nose touch: By SMOOTHLY applying back pressure and trying to keep the plane from landing, you will touch down with a minimal amount of energy.

Trim: It’s your best friend when landing a Cirrus. Nose-up trim that is!

A Cirrus is a great aircraft but it’s a lousy pilot and if you don’t fly it, it will try to fly you. If at any time during the landing process you feel that you are along for the ride ... please, please, please ... immediately have “a cool head and GO AROUND.”

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