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Feature Story

Go Arounds Are a Key Element in Preventing Excursions

Almost two of every three accidents involving business aviation turbojets are approach- and landing-related, and the majority of those mishaps are due to runway excursions – defined as “an aircraft on the runway surface going ”

“As accident rates are decreasing, runway excursions are increasing,” said Steve Charbonneau, secretary of NBAA’s Safety Committee, which recently completed a safety focus project on runway excursion prevention. Furthermore, notes Doug Carr, NBAA’s vice president safety, security & regulation, “We have seen that the consequences of a runway excursion usually involve substantial damage to aircraft and injuries to people.”

Training to ‘Go Around’

According to Flight Safety Foundation (FSF), the top four risk factors in landing excursions (one in five excursions is take off related) include: a go-around not being conducted; touchdown long, approach fast; touchdown fast; and ineffective braking because of runway contamination. And, “when it comes to risk factors in runway excursions, it really doesn’t matter if you fly a Boeing, an Airbus, a Gulfstream or a Dassault – the primary risk factors are very similar,” said Jim Burin, director of technical programs for FSF.

Failure to go around contributes to one-third – and is the primary cause – of all landing excursion accidents, according to FSF data. Overall, the lack of go-arounds is the leading risk factor in approach and landing accidents.

“We need to remember that a go-around is a normal procedure,” said Pat Daily, managing director of consulting firm Convergent Performance, who gave a presentation on runway excursions at a recent NBAA Regional Forum.

“‘Go around’ are the two least-used words in aviation,” said Daily. “These are not just simulator procedures.” Daily noted that companies should be pleased if their go-around numbers are going up, meaning that pilots are taking fewer chances and aborting an unstable or otherwise risky approach and/or landing. ”

It’s important to note that many approach and landing accidents result from poorly executed go-arounds, according to Burin of FSF. “The two primary issues with go-arounds are the decision to make one and then the execution of the go-around,” said Burin, who recommended that go-around policies and criteria be reinforced through training. In certain instances – for example, once thrust reversers (or their equivalent) have been activated – a go-around is no longer an option.

Calculating Landing Risks

Having stabilized approach criteria incorporated into a flight department’s standard operating procedures (SOPs) also is part of the key to reducing runway excursions, said Burin. Although FSF and NBAA encourage pilots to always follow the elements of a stabilized approach, Burin cautioned that approaches will vary depending on the recommended landing guidelines from aircraft manufacturers. Unfortunately, in a study of more than one million flights, FSF found that only 1.4 percent of the 35,000 unstabilized approaches made resulted in a go-around. Furthermore, landing risks can happen even with stabilized approaches. However, Charbonneau notes that there are “strong associations with unstable approaches and long, hard and fast landings” – all of which can contribute

Knowing When to Apply Safety Margins

Calculating the proper landing distance as accurately as possible also is imperative. This includes correctly assessing the environmental conditions on the runway and properly gauging the correct aircraft performance given the actual runway conditions. “Operators need to develop policies to compel flightcrew to verify the runway condition prior to landing and apply sufficient safety margins to certified landing distances,” said Charbonneau.

Wet or contaminated runways must be taken into consideration, as should crosswinds and tailwinds. For instance, FSF’s safe landing guidelines recommend no more than a 10-knot tailwind for a non-contaminated

“The desire to successfully accomplish the mission must be balanced with the reasonable and calculated expectation of accurate aircraft performance, especially during conditions of reduced aircraft-braking performance, such as on wet or icy runways,” said NBAA’s Carr.

Limiting the number of runway excursions is key to reducing the number of accidents in business aviation.

Charbonneau encourages all flight departments to develop a landing strategy, and follow three key guidelines:

  • Know your environment.
  • Know your performance capabilities – do not guess.
  • Fly the airplane according to plan.

Finally, remember that the go-around is a normal procedure.

For More Information

Get more safety resources at or visit Flight Safety Foundation online at

Safe Landing Guidelines

The risk of an approach-and-landing accident is increased if any of the following guidelines is not met. If more than one guideline is not met, the overall risk is greatly increased.

  • Fly a stabilized approach.
  • Height at threshold crossing is 50 ft.
  • Speed at threshold crossing is not more than Vref + 10 knots indicated airspeed and not less than Vref.
  • Tailwind is no more than 10 knots for a non-contaminated runway, no more than 0 knots for a contaminated runway.
  • Touchdown on runway centerline at the touchdown aim point.
  • After touchdown, promptly transition to the desired deceleration configuration:
    1. Brakes
    2. Spoilers/speed brakes
    3. Thrust reversers or equivalent (e.g., lift dump)
    Note: Once thrust reversers have been activated, a go-around is no longer an option.
  • Speed is less than 80 knots with 2,000 feet of runway remaining.

Courtesy of Flight Safety Foundation

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