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.
"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.
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
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.