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Go Around Or Not?

Source:, Featuring Wally Moran

Subscriber Question:

"How do I know when I should go around? How do I recognize a non-stabilized approach?" - Walter W.


"Ask the guys who have landed long and have gone off the end of the runway. They will tell you to go around early and often. But, sadly it’s too late for them. Almost all runway over-runs started with an unstabilized approach.

I think the first sign of an unstabilized approach is that little voice in the back of your head telling you something is not right. We all have made lots of good approaches and it is not too hard to tell when things just don’t look right. But the urge is strong to press on and see if we can’t get it all together by touchdown.

So the real question is - When is it too late to save the approach?

At the airline I worked for, our policy on visual approaches was to have all parameters where they were supposed to be prior to reaching 500 feet above ground level. In our case the parameters were speed stabilized at proper approach speed, sink rate stabilized at less than 1000FPM and final flap configuration. I always planned to have all that done at 1000 feet then if I missed a little, I still had time to fix it before 500 feet. Now if we were making an instrument approach then we needed all those things at the FAF. A go-around was mandatory if we were not on those numbers

That policy worked good for me for many years so that is what I use for my general aviation flying. I try to recognize 500 feet above the ground on all visual approaches and at that time I double check that the green gear light is on, confirm my speed to be within 10 mph of my target and in a position that given my current sink rate I will land where I planned. If I don’t have the airplane within those parameters, I go around.

I always plan to land just past the numbers except on very long runways where it may be advantageous to land at a different spot. But, I always have a spot planned.

If I am doing an instrument approach I plan to be stabilized with gear down and landing checklist complete prior to the FAF. I am simply too busy flying the approach to be bothered with changing airspeeds, trimming and checklists inside the FAF.

The pilot who has not thought this through ahead of time will someday find himself floating down the runway wondering if it’s too late to go around or if he will get stopped by the end of the runway. This is a poor time and place to try to make that decision. On the other hand, having already made the decision on approach standards before you takeoff, you only have to execute the missed approach if you don’t meet the standards."

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