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Fri, Jun 23, 2006

ANN's Daily Aero-Tips (06.23.06): Call The Missed?

Aero-Tips!

A good pilot is always learning -- how many times have you heard this old standard throughout your flying career? There is no truer statement in all of flying (well, with the possible exception of "there are no old, bold pilots.")

Aero-News has called upon the expertise of Thomas P. Turner, master CFI and all-around-good-guy, to bring our readers -- and us -- daily tips to improve our skills as aviators. Some of them, you may have heard before... but for each of us, there will also be something we might never have considered before, or something that didn't "stick" the way it should have the first time we memorized it for the practical test.

Look for our daily Aero-Tips segments, coming each day to you through the Aero-News Network.

Aero-Tips 06.23.06

"I screwed up and had to fly the missed approach."

I've heard comments like that many times. This innocent comment reveals a common mindset that may set pilots up for very high workload climbing away in poor weather conditions, or even a post-approach accident. The term "missed approach" implies that somehow the pilot did something wrong, that he/she "missed" flying it correctly. Assume you'll fly it right and you might fail to prepare for the missed.

Why Miss?

The primary reason we would "miss" an instrument approach is that when arriving at the closest safe distance from the runway at the lowest safe altitude, weather conditions prohibit us from seeing the runway environment and landing. Consequently we have to "fly away" along a segment of the published procedure that includes climb to a safe altitude along a defined, safe route. This permits time to re-evaluate conditions and decide whether to attempt another approach or fly to another airport.

A secondary "miss" consideration is if the pilot deviates from an approach. The FAA Instrument Pilot Practical Test Standards (PTS) permit no more than a 3/4 scale deflection of Course Deviation Indicators during an approach—leading to the widespread (and wise) interpretation that more than a 3/4 scale needle deflection during an approach requires flying a miss.

A third reason to miss is if the pilot feels anything is not going well and wants to gain some time to work things out. This might include mechanical failures (avionics outage, landing gear will not extend, etc.) as well as pilot causes (not properly set up and briefed for the approach, not stabilized on speed before the Final Approach Fix, etc.).

Although there are pilot issues that might require a miss, the major reason pilots have to miss an approach in the "real world" is weather. A misconception that "missing" is an result of pilot failure may lead the confident pilot to assume landing will be successful, and fail to prepare (in briefing, avionics set-up and mental preparation) to safely "fly away" in the most likely miss scenario.

Whether you call it a "missed approach" or a "fly away" maneuver, don't assume superior pilot skill will always get you to the runway. It may simply be that the weather's too bad to land there that day.

Aero-tip of the day: Brief and set up for the missed approach procedure every time you fly an approach.

FMI: Aero-Tips

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